Blogger, chef, writer, thinker? Huang hates labels

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But the street food at Baohaus caught on, and in 2011 Huang moved it to a new location on 14th Street. He says he appreciated Sifton’s review because it made him refocus attention on his food.

He’s been less charitable about some fellow chefs. He’s accused Chang, head of the growing Momofuku group of restaurants, as essentially a sellout. And he’s had even sharper words for the very successful Samuelsson, the Ethiopian-born chef whose latest venture is the high-profile Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem. Huang (though he doesn’t hail from Harlem either) finds both the place and the chef’s memoir, “Yes Chef,” inauthentic. To Samuelsson’s description of Harlem in its glory days, Huang wrote in The Observer: “Thank you, Marcus, for that ride to the intersection of Stigma St. and Stereotype Blvd…”

Huang has even weighed in on the Tiger Mom author, Amy Chua. He responded to her book with an article on Salon.com, “In Defense of Chinese Dads,” in which he argued that while his own Tiger Mom pushed him toward excellence, it was his dad’s more relaxed, older-brother like approach that was essential _ that in fact saved him.

But this same father is the subject of what many readers will find the most shocking element of his book. He describes a father who beat him frequently as punishment, chasing him with a whip, or even worse, a three-foot long rubber alligator with sharp scales. “There’s something about crawling on the floor with your pops tracking you down by whip that grounds you as a human being,” Huang writes. And yet he basically gives his dad a pass, citing cultural differences. “The bruises and puncture wounds … were excessive, but I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my dad hitting us,” he writes.

This subject came up at the book reading, where a young woman rose and asked about the beatings. “This was the hardest part of the book _ to shoot your parents in the face,” Huang said. He described how authorities caught on while he was in school, and came to check him and his brother for bruises. The brothers never snitched, though.

“There were times I needed to be hit,” Huang said to a suddenly hushed room. “I don’t know if it is correct to say that it made me a stronger person.”

At this point, chef Tom Colicchio, who was interviewing Huang at the reading, chimed in with his own story of being hit once as an older kid. “It is not good parenting,” said Colicchio, famous for the Grammercy Tavern and Craft restaurants. “It’s about losing control. It’s a cycle that needs to stop.”

Colicchio was full of praise for the honesty of Huang’s memoir, and allowed that he has considered writing his own. “But I could never be as brutally honest as Eddie is, so I have to question whether I could ever write one,” he told the crowd.

In an interview later, Colicchio marvels at the career Huang has created for himself at such a young age.

“He wanted a restaurant because that would give him a platform to spread his message, to get a voice,” Colicchio says. “He wants to speak for Chinese-Americans. When you think about it _ that he had this idea, and he’s putting it all together and making it happen _ it’s amazing, really. This guy is really, really smart. Even if you don’t like him, there’s something there that you have to respect.”

What comes next for Huang? Once the publicity blitz for his book dies down, he’ll be back to his routine of writing during the day, keeping close tabs on Baohaus, taping his Web show one afternoon a week (and traveling for it two weeks per month), and dreaming up more plans. Like opening more Baohaus restaurants _ but “not a chain,” he says. “Each one will be different.”

Huang loves living in New York, though he’s clearly a downtown guy, scoffing at the stuffy Upper East Side. New York, Huang explains, is what the rest of America is supposed to be _ but isn’t.

“Here, I’m welcomed everywhere,” he says. “But I’ll never forget how people treated me before.”

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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