Cultural Stories

An Exploration of Food: The Chefs and Stories that Bridge our Cultural Divide

By Joann Jen
Today's food landscape is a celebration of cultures. Whether a singular expression of regional cuisine or a fusion of cultures, we at inKind believe food is a love letter passed from the hands that have prepared the meal to all of us. Join us as we honor the rich stories of local chefs and regional cuisines—together, we can explore the foods that transform us, inspire us, and unite us.
As a child of immigrants growing up in suburban New Jersey, I wanted to be the pigtailed redhead, the eponymous icon of fast food fame, Wendy. In direct opposition to jasmine rice and the traditional Chinese dishes of my ancestors, I gravitated towards burgers, fries, and frosties. Embarrassed by my mother's more exotic prepared school lunches, Wendy's served as a beacon of what it meant to be American.

Today, with age, knowledge, and curiosity, the food that speaks the loudest to me directly links back to my heritage as a Taiwanese American. Dishes like rice congee with rousong, xiao long bao soup dumplings, and oxtail soup are what feeds my soul and my pride. These everyday dishes are not only familiar, they provide context to who I am today.

This is the truism of food, no matter its origins. Ingredients perceived as exotic, foreign, and unknown, in generous hands, have the ability to tell a story that can educate and transport diners. Every bite is a love letter, every slurp, a history lesson.

While the food of David Kuo (Little Fatty) is an anthem to my Taiwanese background—bringing spices and sauces relegated to the ethnic aisle into the public domain—there are many other amazing Asian chefs like Shirley Chung (Ms. Chi Cafe), Shota Nakajima (Taku), Wilson Tang (Nom Wah Tea Parlour), and Chintan Pandya (Unapologetic Foods Hospitality) that are sharing their culture and broadening the American palate in the process. These chefs, their stories, and their influence can and should speak as loudly as the fast food establishments and Americanized cuisine that surround us.
This month, in honor of Black History Month, inKind will bring the stories of great Black chefs like Gregory Gourdet (Kann), Carmari Mick (Musket Room), Eric McKree (Filé Gumbo Bar), Kwame Onuwachi (Tatiana) to the forefront. From beef ribs smoked in Haitian coffee rub to Egusi soup dumplings served with Nigerian red stew to crawfish and crispy okra étouffée—these dishes are undeniably of the culture. And no matter the month, these chefs are making Black history every day and sharing it on a plate with you.

At inKind, we are committed to uplifting the stories of every culture and sharing them with you, our community, through food and the people that make it. We believe it is crucial to highlight these marginalized voices in food that are often presenting their culture in unfamiliar places and spaces. It is these voices that need to be heard the loudest and we are ready to proclaim it.

On inKind, we invite you to read, to explore, and to take part as we meet the chefs behind the foods we enjoy. Our only hope is for this space to inspire you to slow down and to participate in the joy that comes with making a dish, to exchanging recipes, and sharing your own stories through a meal with loved ones.

Family Dinners
Food has always been a centerpiece in my family gatherings. Every holiday, birthday, or celebration, my grandmother would make a veritable feast for the entire family. Each dish, meticulously plated, represented my grandmother's love for her family. And today, even though my grandmother is no longer with us, we continue our time-honored tradition of gathering around the dinner table celebrating family and our connections with each other.
Celebrating Black History
All Year Long
We're bringing to life the stories of great Black chefs this month and throughout the year because the culinary impact Black chefs have isn't reserved for February. Join us year-round as we celebrate chefs like Gregory Gourdet (Kann), Eric Mckree (Filé Gumbo Bar), Keem Hughely (Bronze), Matt Horn (Horn Barbecue), and Jahmond Quander (1799 Prime Steak and Seafood) for their innovation, cultural impact, and incredible talent.