Panel explores the politics of tastemaking at Alphabet City
A panel of experts on food, culture and immigration identity politics drew a sold-out crowd to City of Asylum @ Alphabet City to discuss how Trump administration policies are affecting Chinese restaurants.
By Melissa Yang
On Monday, Nov. 26, City of Asylum @ Alphabet City hosted a standout, sold-out event co-sponsored with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Pulitzer Center. Registered attendees for the free event were greeted with drink tickets for the wine and beer bar, plus a Chinese food buffet provided by Everyday Noodles. The generous spread of potstickers, noodle dishes, and additional traditional fare made for a satisfying feast before the main event, a panel discussion on “Taste Makers: Chinese Restaurants and the Asian American Identity.”
A dynamic and wide-ranging conversation was facilitated by Melissa McCart, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette restaurant reporter, and featured speakers Mike Chen, the restaurateur and owner of Everyday Noodles, Marian Lien, the executive director of the Squirrel Hill Urban Coalition and commissioner on the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian and Pacific American Affairs in Pennsylvania, as well as University of Pittsburgh regional economist Chris Briem.
This event closely followed the publication of a Pulitzer Center-supported article by McCart about Chen’s restaurant and how the Trump administration’s immigration policies are affecting it.
Chen talked about the challenges he faces in order to recruit chefs from Taiwan, something he does to ensure his restaurant is preparing the most authentic food possible. With zeal and humor, he detailed the minutiae of traditional noodle pulling and soup dumpling folding techniques.
Briem discussed patterns of Pittsburgh area immigration, while Lien reinforced her coalition’s aim to “ensure that our communities are speaking to each other in a way that we’re supporting one another,” especially among local underrepresented populations. The crowd weighed in with plenty of questions for the panel, spanning topics from the specifics of immigration policy to methods of sourcing the freshest authentic ingredients for Asian cuisine.
With a shared passion for building a diverse, inclusive and connected Pittsburgh, McCart, Chen, Lien and Briem all offered thoughtful perspectives drawing from diverse areas of expertise on food, culture and immigration identity politics.
“Taste Makers: Chinese Restaurants and the Asian American Identity” was a unique panel experience, and only one of many offerings on an enticing menu of cultural events served at the City of Asylum @ Alphabet City. For more information on upcoming Alphabet City events, visit www.alphabetcity.org.