A quick search on the trusty Urban Dictionary site gives a prompt definition of “yellow fever”: a sexual obsession felt by a (normally male) non-asian towards asians of the opposite gender.

Interview with Chef Jenny Dorsey

  


 

Introduce yourself! 

Hi! I’m Jenny. I’m a professional chef, author and speaker who focuses on the relationship of food with identity and vulnerability. I’m the founder of a nonprofit events company named Studio ATAO (more on that below) and also run my own culinary consulting business.

I’m a career changer into food — I started out as a management consultant at Accenture out of college and went to Columbia Business School for my MBA before pivoting to culinary school. Since then I’ve worked a lot of different jobs in food, from cooking in restaurants in NYC & SF to being a barista, juice salesperson and corporate food & beverage associate. I’m really appreciative of how much I’ve learned from these experiences and encourage everyone to explore as much as possible and not feel limited to any one career trajectory.

Now, I split my time running the Studio and while maintaining a few clients on the consulting side. I co-host Well + Good’s Alt Baking Bootcamp and write for variety of media outlets, such as Eater, VICE, Michelin Guide, Tasting Table and have a monthly soup column for Serious Eats; I’ve also written several books, most recently Healthy Cocktails (Skyhorse Publishing 2019) and the forthcoming The Infrared Grill Master (Ulysses Press 2020). In my free time I make ceramics via my Wednesday Ceramics line and hang out with 2 dogs and 1 husband. 

What is Studio ATAO? What does it do?

Studio ATAO is a JD: 501(c)3 nonprofit immersive events company that creates interdisciplinary, impact-driven content and experiences that facilitate thoughtful conversation and allyship through interpersonal connection. We are best known for our public programming series, Asian in America, a symbolic exhibition and 6-course dining experience that explores the complex narrative of the Asian American identity through food and drink, virtual reality, spoken word performance, and poetry. Last year we also debuted HIDDEN, a multi-sensory dinner marrying virtual reality, spatial audio and dance to explore themes of cognitive dissonance, introspection and self-acceptance. We are now in pre-production for a new series titled Glass Through Skin, which delves into the normalization and invisibility of female pain.

Earlier this year we also launched our Experimental Salons model – intimate, small group (8-12 people) dinner and facilitated discussions tailored for professionals in specific industries to come together and discuss a pertinent question related to social impact. Our last event series brought together a group of food media professionals to discuss How Can Food Media Better Present Non-White Cultures Without Tokenizing Them? and resulted in a toolkit on the topic titled “Food Media Has A Tokenization Problem.”

You also sell ceramics at Wednesday Ceramics – how did you begin doing ceramics?  

I was looking for another creative outlet where I wouldn’t be worried about producing something ‘professional’, so I turned to ceramics because I love to work with my hands (and there’s an added benefit of using my own clay). I now work out of a community studio in Los Angeles called Cobalt & Clay, which is so wonderful. I try to spend a few hours on ceramics once a week, and I sell them on my personal website. All the proceeds from ceramics go towards funding Studio ATAO!

What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?  Personally & work-wise? 

Hmm, this is a tough one. Honestly, I’m very proud of myself for overcoming what felt like big, monumental failures in my life and continuing to pick myself up and keep going. For instance, when I was eliminated first from Chopped a few years ago – I thought my life was over! I also was in the running for Forbes 30 Under 30 this year and didn’t get it, which again I was incredibly disappointed (it had been a goal of mine since I was 24!) but alas, I kept my chin up and kept going.

Who inspires you?

I’m a huge fan of my friend Ashtin Berry, who I met last year at a conference called FAB and I’ve been learning from ever since. She’s been leading the way in decolonizing our food systems and building in equity for hospitality workers at every level.

What are your ultimate comfort foods?

Juicy soup dumplings and Shin ramen!

How has your heritage influenced your relationship with food? 

Growing up, becoming a chef was never an option as a career so I usually saw food as just background noise, or something my mom was in charge of. Now that I work intimately with food and can appreciate how much it truly informs who we are as individuals I’ve spent a lot more time digging into my own past and analyzing my memories with and around food. I recently talked about some of this in my TEDx Talk, specifically on how food creates “in” and “out” groups and my relationship with food and shame.

What’s your go-to coffee shop order? 

Iced matcha, no milk, no sugar, very foamy!

What advice would you give to your younger self? 

Don’t listen to other people, only you know what’s best for you.

What is next for you?   

My team at the Studio and I have been hard at work on Glass Through Skin, so that’s a big focus for 2020. We’re also looking to launch several more Experimental Salons — especially a few for the Asian American community to discuss COVID-19 and how we can use this time to learn how to better approach supporting each other while unlearning the scarcity & model minority mindset as we move into the future.

 


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Jenny is a professional chef, author and artist specializing in multi-platform storytelling fusing food with social good. She leads a nonprofit studio named Studio ATAO and runs her own culinary consulting business. Her full biography, food portfolio and writing can be found at http://jennydorsey.co.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

You can find announcements, more news, and get to know our staff on social media: give us a follow, and learn how you can get involved today!

We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

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