Eddie Huang’s New Docuseries to Focus on Immigrant-Owned Kitchens

When Fresh Off the Boat premiered on ABC in February 2015, Eddie Huang should have been ecstatic. The sitcom about a Taiwanese family pursuing the American dream in Florida is based on his memoir of the same name, and it immediately garnered favorable reviews and a strong viewer following. But Huang, who initially served as creator, producer, and narrator for the show, soon found himself disillusioned with how the network presented his story to a broad American audience. In a series of interviews, he expressed frustration that the unique immigrant experience detailed in his memoir wasn’t adequately translated for television, even stating in an interview with NPR that “the studio and network are not on a mission to represent [AsianAmericans].” By the time season two of Fresh Off the Boat premiered in September 2015, Huang had distanced himself from the show to focus on other projects. Now he is at the helm of a new docuseries, and he’s hopeful that this latest endeavor will present a more authentic view of the immigrant experience.

Cash Only, a travel series hosted and co-produced by Huang, focuses on immigrant owned kitchens around the world and presents food as a source of universal connection. Huang, who is a first-generation TaiwaneseAmerican and worked as a chef and restauranteur before penning his memoir, is excited about the show because it represents several facets of his experience as the child of immigrants. In an interview with Variety earlier this year, Huang mused that “[food] is the language that, despite where you’re from or what your politics are, you can put it in your mouth and you can understand it.” And viewers can expect an authentic examination of cuisine from other cultures. Cash Only, Huang explained, is “not like a performative chef-driven farm-to-table thing, it’s like I’m serving my kids pigs ears tonight. It’s a food of necessity … through that struggle, I think you get some of the best bites you’re ever going to have.”

In developing Cash Only, Huang insisted that the show explore the food of global immigrant communities. “We’re not just going to focus it on America, we’re gonna go to Russia. In Russia, the working class is primarily from the Central Asian countries. … in Sicily, there’s a lot of North Africans. When you start to see people of different ethnicity that are immigrants doing those working class jobs in other countries, you’ll be able to see a reflection of them and maybe it will move you regarding your American politics.” But while Huang hopes his show will promote inclusive attitudes towards immigrants, his main focus will still be food. On Cash Only, Huang interviews his subjects about their cultural cuisine with the relaxed, unbiased attitude pioneered by other celebrity chefs like Andrew Zimmern and the late Anthony Bourdain. This was a conscious choice, he explained, to present immigrant food not as an exotic oddity, but as a way to gather families around a table regardless of what country they happen to be dining in. After all, said Huang, “It’s just somebody’s luck when it comes to the country they’re born into. If we stop being afraid of being ourselves, I think we will all start to understand each other a lot more.” [See Eddie Huang Uses Food to Tackle Immigration, Representation in ‘Cash Only’ by Ellis Clopton, Variety, 28.Jun.2018.]


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