Peter Chang 
Member since Aug 26, 2016


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Recent Comments

Re: “Don’t Call It a Goodbye

You'll be missed. I've greatly appreciated your searching out of smaller places that would otherwise be completely overlooked. I hope your successor will maintain this ethos, and that you'll imprint some of that perspective to the glossy pages of your new gig. Good luck!

Posted by Peter Chang on 04/05/2017 at 10:26 PM

Re: “Cooking Other People's Food: How Chefs Appropriate Bay Area 'Ethnic' Cuisine

Luke makes many good points here about privilege, the comfort zone and expectations of audiences, etc. However, I do think the media plays an even larger role than Luke states. Los Angeles has Jonathan Gold, who is as adventurous and knowledgeable about all kinds of cuisine as any critic in existence. Many really great places, a majority of which are run by immigrants cooking food from their culture, are given business-altering attention by Gold's writing. This has a cascade effect, in that illuminating the often challenging Southern Thai cooking of Jitlada then opens up people's palates and minds to other Thai places doing unfamiliar things. Is Luv2Eat Thai a huge success within its first year (!) without the groundwork of Jitlada and Jonathan Gold? I doubt it.

The Bay Area (and primarily SF) has traditionally been covered by Michael Bauer and collectively the places he writes about are very different than Gold's portfolio. This has undoubtedly informed the palates of the Bay Area. Why is it a big surprise, then, that people prefer Comal to El Paisa when nobody even bothers to review El Paisa (until Luke did so last year, 7 years after it opened)? For years, Chowhound was a far better place to learn about interesting eateries than any of the normal media outlets (and its descent into uselessness is a sad story for another day). But CH fame isn't enough by any stretch to lead thousands of people to try a place or cuisine or dish that's outside their comfort zone, to turn Jitlada into JITLADA. It's not impossible: Burma Superstar has turned everybody into a tea leaf salad expert; Turtle Tower is the reference for many people's pho ga. These places are out there, but we need help separating the good from the mediocre.

Therefore, the way to balance the scales is for media members who have a broad audience to considerably expand what kind of restaurant is considered “review worthy”, and to write knowledgeably, adventurously and engagingly about them. This is not a small thing to ask. Who will take the time to understand and explain the characteristics of Jiangsu cuisine, and where to go to experience it? Who has the depth to say that this Sinaloan mariscos place stands above the others? Gold certainly wasn't born with an innate understanding of homestyle Korean food, but he can write about Soban with enough authority and enthusiasm that some people will go check it out, and some fraction of them will have a great experience and tell their friends, and so on. Whoever the Bay Area's Jonathan Gold is, she or he will need a lot of time to build trust and an audience. Maybe it's a group effort. Luke is clearly doing his part and I thank him for his efforts. I believe he's easily the best critic we have right now, and maybe in time he will be enough if he is given a platform with a wider geographic range. There's definitely a market for this type of criticism -- we just need the right guidance.

N.B. The South Bay is filled with places that are known mainly only to the immigrant populations that they serve. Would someone please start writing intelligently about them?

Posted by Peter Chang on 08/26/2016 at 5:06 PM

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