Reviews for Fresh Off The Boat
Booklist Reviews 2012 December #1
Born in the U.S. to Taiwanese immigrant parents, Huang refuses to be a "lapdog under a bamboo ceiling," and his colloquial, furious memoir is as open about his struggling, screaming, sometimes abusive parents as it is about the prejudice he encounters growing up in Orlando and then in New York, where to this day "someone tells me to go back to China at least three times a year." He hates that everything he does is a statement about his people and where they are from, even as he refuses to be reformed, assimilated, apologetic. Always refusing to fit in, he wants to hurt people like they hurt him, and he succeeds. Now he runs a big New York City gourmet restaurant and a food store, and, throughout the book, food is front and center, including his mother's recipe for the best beef noodle soup. Readers will leave hungry, and many immigrants will recognize the refusal to go with the model minority myth. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.
BookPage Reviews 2013 February
An odd journey to culinary genius
Fresh Off the Boat, the new memoir by rising culinary star Eddie Huang, is one roller coaster of a ride. Written with headlong ferocity, the book takes us from Huang’s early Taiwanese taste bud revelations (“Soup dumplings, sitcoms, one-night stands—good ones leave you wanting more”) to the establishment of his restaurant Baohaus, a realization of his vision for a youth-culture-oriented hot spot in the East Village where no one would “kick you out, call the cops, or serve you shitty 7-Eleven pressed Cubans.”
But it isn’t a swift or easy ride; like many bright, talented, angry and angst-filled young people, Huang struggles to discover and embody his authentic self—a struggle compounded by his Asian upbringing in American culture. He vows to “detox” his identity and cleanse it of everything he doesn’t consciously want or choose. But the fight isn’t only internal; he takes it to the streets, is constantly in trouble and hopscotches through five schools in seven years. At 13 he was already hustling, “running NCAA pools, taking bets on NFL games and selling porno,” and by the time he’s in college it’s skirmishes with the law. One night, the situation gets out of hand and there’s a trip to Orlando’s 33rd Street Jail, and a conviction. Rather than “sit at home on felony parole,” Huang takes a hiatus to Taiwan for a while, where he is relatively free and able to contemplate his future.
By the time he returns, he’s on a mission: finding a place for himself in the world, “or making one.” Food is a lifelong interest, but before Baohaus materializes, Huang “samples” many other venues: hip hop, law school and stand-up comedy among them. But “the sky broke and everything was clear” once he knew he was going to open a restaurant—one that specialized in Taiwanese gua bao and, even more importantly, one that would be the manifestation of his “friends, family, and memories.”
Though much of Huang’s writing is raw and intense, there are dollops of tenderness and zen-like wisdom when he writes about someone or something he loves, such as his mother, his grandmother or well-prepared food: “The best dishes have depth without doing too much. It’s not about rounding up all the seasonal ingredients you can find, it’s about paying close attention to the ones you already have.”
Like the dishes he describes as “jumping off the plate,” Huang’s memoir jumps off the page. Its flavors are “big, deep, kid-dynamite-Mike-Tyson-knock-you-out-of-the-box” intense and will leave you wanting more! Copyright 2012 BookPage Reviews.
Kirkus Reviews 2013 February #1
Up-and-coming celebrity chef Huang serves up a raw memoir recounting his life as an angry young man chafing under generations of stifling Chinese tradition and all-encompassing American "whiteness." Three things inform the multitalented restaurateur's identity: food, basketball and hip-hop. Although not necessarily in that order, each is infused in virtually every sentence, many of which are laugh-out-loud funny. All three provided the socially conscious author with the succor he needed to make it as an Asian "OutKast" growing up in the Deep South. The son of a former Taiwanese gangster father and a money-obsessed mother, Huang spent his formative years posting up with his style-obsessed buddies and generally bucking authority and the status quo. The author renders his portraits of his many colorful friends and family as vividly and spectacularly as his recipe for beef noodle soup. Huang may have an opinion on everything from religion to RZA, but his deeply contemplative nature deflects any accusations of self-righteousness. His history of violence is more problematic, however. Physical violence both on the streets and inside the home punctuated the author's younger years, and while the latter is thoughtfully unpacked and explored, the former is too often glorified. It could have all easily gone quite differently for Huang. At one point, he was arrested after driving a car into a crowd of threatening rivals and was packed off to Taiwan in order to escape punishment. However, he used the opportunity to reconcile his Asian heritage and focus his unrelenting energy on the things he really wanted out of life. The inspiring result became his trendsetting East Village eatery, Baohaus. A unique voice with a provocative point of view. Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.
Library Journal Reviews Newsletter
Hipster restaurateur Huang takes the American dream and tilts it a few degrees off center in this rambling saga of his trek through a childhood and adolescence marked by hip-hop, law school, arrests, and a fair amount of troublemaking. He explodes the "model minority" myth in his chronicle of growing up as the problem child of a family of Taiwanese immigrants in a country where an Asian face causes a lot of preconceptions. What value stays with him all along? No spoiler alert is needed to say that it's a love of food. VERDICT While there is probably no other paean to that iconic Thanksgiving side dish--the green bean casserole--in recent literature, Huang's in-your-face delivery of his scramble to succeed will appeal to foodies out there who are too cool for school. (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 October #5
Huang, the founder of the popular East Village food shop Baohaus, tells his unconventional immigrant fable with his FOB ("fresh off the boat") parents and his unusual relatives living the Yankee dream. He traces his food jones to his father's restaurant in Orlando, Fla., wrestling with his Chinese identity, while embracing a love of old school hip-hop, Michael Jackson, Charles Barkley, and Jonathan Swift's satirical "A Modest Proposal." Writing with attitude, Huang details his journey from novice cook sampling Haitian ribs, Southern cooking, Japanese Izakaya wings, Bon Chon Korean fried chicken, and Taiwanese foods to opening his landmark eatery known for its fashionable, simple Asian street food. "I grew up in the excess of the Brat Pack-Madonna-Joe Montana-Michael Jackson 80s and the NWA-MJ-Nirvana-World Wide Web nineties, and we saw the residual battles from seminal cases like Roe v. Wade or Regents of the University of California v. Bakke," Huang writes. Brash, leading-edge, and unapologetically hip, Huang reconfigures the popular foodie memoir into something worthwhile and very memorable. (Jan.29) [Page ]. Copyright 2012 PWxyz LLC