[00:00:05] [cooking sounds].
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:05] This is Skillet, the podcast where we cook together and listen to each other. I’m Jen Nathan Orris.
Cass Herrington: [00:00:11] And I’m Cass Herrington.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:13] Remember the time we drove through Lexington, Kentucky?
Cass Herrington: [00:00:16] Sure do. It was so sweet taking you to the Bluegrass State.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:19] Our first stop was to visit Dan Wu. He’s a chef and host of the podcast The Culinary Evangelist. His podcast is on hiatus at the moment, but Dan’s still has a lot to say about food and culture. It’s almost like his ideas about how food brings us together and pulls us apart have been bottled up for the past year.
Cass Herrington: [00:00:38] Because that’s when he put down the microphone and opened up his restaurant Atomic Tamen.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:43] It’s a ramen shop in Lexington, Kentucky. A casual, order at the counter spot. But don’t be fooled. The soup stock takes 10 hours to make and you can top the fresh noodles with everything from nori to braised pork belly.
Cass Herrington: [00:00:56] But that’s not exactly what Dan Wu is making with us today.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:00:59] For him, ramen brings back memories of being a college kid at the University of Kentucky. Back then he didn’t have time to make broth from scratch so he used a favorite food of penny-pinching students everywhere—packaged ramen.
Cass Herrington: [00:01:12] He added all kinds of vegetables. Whatever he had in the fridge or found at an Asian grocery store.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:01:18] It was an easy, filling meal that has sustained him for decades.
Cass Herrington: [00:01:22] Dan makes what he calls “college ramen” on this episode of Skillet.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:01:26] While we cook, he talks about the phrase “ethnic food” and how he navigated some negative perceptions as he chose the name of his ramen shop in Kentucky.
Cass Herrington: [00:01:34] He also talks about emigrating from China as a kid and whether he considers himself a Southerner after living here most of his life.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:01:43] We record some sweet sizzling sounds…
Cass Herrington: [00:01:45] And Dan shares a cooking tip that will banish soggy veggies and overcooked eggs forever.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:01:50] So let’s get in the kitchen already!
Cass Herrington: [00:01:51] Go for it, Dan.
Dan Wu: [00:01:52] My name is Dan Wu and we’re making a grown up version of college ramen. So obviously the central part is the ramen. So you know you know you’re not fully cooking from scratch when you have a little bit of this.
[00:02:11] [crinkle of ramen package].
Dan Wu: [00:02:11] So this is probably my favorite kind of packaged ramen. When I was thinking about a dish that was going to be sort of really meaningful to me and kind of deep in my own history and my own narrative, I thought of all this like fancy food and really great food. And I was like You know what? What have I really lived on for the last 20, 30 years? It’s ramen. My version of it is packaged Korean ramen from the Asian grocery store, but what I would do when I get it home is I would throw in all kinds of just whatever random stuff I had in the fridge. So different vegetables, meats, eggs, stuff like that. And even though now I run an actual ramen restaurant, there’s still a little piece of me that kind of longs for those like kind of simpler you know broke ass student kind of days.
Dan Wu: [00:02:57] Ingredient-wise we’ve got some green onions. I’m not proud to say that they’re halfway wilted but this is kind of you know this is verite; this is reality, in college is just like what do I have in the fridge, right? I always like to have a root vegetable, so I’ve got some daikon radishes I’ve got some little white beech mushrooms, which are great, a little kamaboko, which is a Japanese style fish cake, aka imitation crab legs. These I could just pop, you know, pop them like snacks. They’re so good. Let’s see what else do we have? And then, for me, any meal, and I don’t know if this is just like and an Asian thing or what I like I just need pickles with everything, for whatever reason. So I got some Japanese pickles. These are called Shibazuke and they’re kind of dyed purple with I think like beet colouring or something. So there are pickled cucumbers and then I got some kimchi over there as well.
Cass Herrington: [00:03:57] So the ingredients have like different origins. Would you call this a pan-Asian dish.
Dan Wu: [00:04:02] Yeah for sure. I think this is definitely, um, we’ve got Korean packaged ramen, daikon which kind of goes all over the different countries of the region. The mushrooms are essentially Japanese, the tiger skin eggs I’m doing is Chinese. So yeah for me I’ve finally come to realize… I curse on the show?
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:04:27] Yes.
Dan Wu: [00:04:27] OK. Great. That that makes me happy. I’ve been struggling for the last several years with the idea of authenticity versus traditionalism versus creativity versus being an American and doing this kind of cuisine. And you know as a Chinese-American who’s lived in the United States most of his life, opening a Japanese ramen shop definitely brought those questions to the fore. So I’ve been kind of, every time I hear the word authentic or people ask me Is your ramen authentic, I kind of cringe a little bit and I’m not sure what to answer. And then I started watching David Chang’s [TV show] Ugly Delicious. And in one of the early episodes he was talking about that exact subject and at one point he says, “Fuck authenticity and make delicious food.” And I was like, “Yeah, that’s it!” And he kind of validated my idea about that. And my friend, Toa Green who runs Crank and Boom ice cream shop here, her family used to run a Thai restaurant and they said they would get customers in there, Invariably white people who had been to Thailand, and they would come back and tell her, “Hey, we were in Bangkok three months ago we had pad thai and they used it this way or they cooked it this way. How come you guys don’t do such and such?” And she would just shrug and say, “I don’t know. This is my mom’s recipe and that’s what we cook.” And it calls into question, like, what is authenticity, right? Is authenticity about your mom making this dish? Is authenticity a specific ingredient. “Is authenticity sitting in a Thai restaurant in Bangkok versus Chicago versus Lexington, Kentucky? So there’s no true authenticity in my mind, so just make delicious food. And once I kind of threw that yoke off of me, it freed me up so much to not have to even think about it. So much of my food, I don’t like the term Pan-Asian because this sounds really trendy and kind of mid-90s but it kind of is, you know. I mean, I want to pull from different traditions and flavor profiles not just from Asia but from everywhere and just make delicious comfort food you know?
Cass Herrington: [00:06:29] Excuse my use of the term Pan-Asian and let’s think of a better term.
Dan Wu: [00:06:32] No, that’s fine. So one of the things I’m trying to find an alternative for is the phrase “ethnic restaurant.”.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:06:38] Yeah. Yeah. We were just talking about this, literally just had this conversation.
Dan Wu: [00:06:40] So how do you, what’s your angle? What’s your approach?
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:06:43] I say “global cuisine.” What do you think?
Dan Wu: [00:06:47] I don’t know. I fall back to ethnic just because it’s kind of what I’m used to. I don’t find it super super problematic and there’s not a good alternative. I understand is problematic because if you call Restaurant A ethnic and Restaurant B is not ethnic, then Restaurant B has no ethnic heritage? Or no national heritage? Right? It doesn’t make sense, so they’re not on equal footing. It would be like the way, you know people do this, if you’re trying describe your friend Greg and you say, “Oh Greg he’s tall he’s got a mustache blah blah.” Or you say “Oh Greg, he’s black.” But you don’t describe white Greg. So you’re on a different playing field. That’s like saying, “Oh, that’s a restaurant and that’s an ethnic restaurant” immediately puts in this other category, but I don’t have a, you know, we should take a poll or something. We should crowdsource this. I’m sure somebody smarter than me will come up with a new thing.
[00:07:42] Today I’m going to do something called tiger skin eggs, which we’re gonna hard boil them, but I do a six-minute egg where the yolk is a little bit runny. And then I’m going to sear him off in a pan with a little bit of oil and a little bit of soy sauce and sugar. So the outside gets dark and kind of crispy and has kind of almost like, I guess, a tiger sort of consistency. It’s a Chinese recipe.
Dan Wu: [00:08:07] So I was born in Wuxi, China. Wuxi is in Jiangsu province which is about three hours west of Shanghai. And a lot of ways, like Kentucky, it’s regionally in the middle of the country, but culturally considered Southern. I came to the United States when I was eight we moved to Fargo, North Dakota of all places.
[00:08:29] [peeling daikon].
Dan Wu: [00:08:29] So the daikon I got are pretty small. They’re about the size of a large carrot, which is nice. So with these we’re just going to kind of chop them up into a little, not really terribly big pieces. I like good little bite-sized pieces, especially in a noodle soup, you don’t need giant chunks of anything. So we have White Beech mushrooms. Hon Shimeji is the Japanese name. So they come in this cute little package and they’re essentially still alive because all the root systems are still connected. They’re super cute this is kind of like what you would imagine would be in a Miyazaki movie. They’re little white mushrooms with a long stem and the stems, unlike a lot of other kinds of mushrooms, are fully edible and they have these little beautiful white caps on the ends. Ramen was apparently one of the first noodle that was eaten in space.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:09:22] Did that inspire the name of your restaurant, “Atomic Ramen?”.
Dan Wu: [00:09:25] No, well, when I was thinking about the my restaurant. I am sort of a lifelong comic book, monster movie, robots and aliens kind of certified geek. So when I started thinking about the concept of the shop, having lived in the United States most of my life, having encountered people’s attitudes about quote unquote ethnic food, I wanted to remove as many obstacles as possible to getting to know that food and the name was certainly one of them. My other contender for the name was Kaiju ramen. And Kaiju is the Japanese word for big monster, like Godzilla is a Kaiju. And I was like, “You know what? That’s one more thing I have to explain to people every day. I like, “I’m not going to do it.” So I started thinking about what does Godzilla and that kind of stuff make me think of? I was like oh, the atomic age, in terms of monsters and radiation and there’s a little retro vibe to it.
Dan Wu: [00:10:26] We’ve got a pot of boiling water. I just dropped in four eggs in there, very gingerly with a slotted spoon. The biggest trick here is an ice bath. Now the problem with when most people cook, blanch vegetables and especially eggs, is they’ll take it out of the hot water and then it just sits on a counter on a plate while it’s still cooking. They’re still active energy happening inside that egg or inside those vegetables. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to drop an ice bath, just a fancy name for a bowl of ice and water. Not too difficult. So as soon as our timer is up we’re going to put the eggs in the ice bath and that will stop its cooking process.
[00:11:13] [water boiling].
Dan Wu: [00:11:13] So our big pot is boiling. We’re going to get our daikon in because that’s our sort of biggest vegetable. Most packaged ramen, they’re going to be, essentially they’re flash fried and then sort of preserved. So in perfect honesty, packaged ramen is not healthy for you. It has a lot of preservatives has a lot of fat has a lot of salt if you use all the flavor packs. So I felt a little bit better about it in college because you’re in college and you’re fairly like immune to everything at the time, and also I was adding all these different vegetables and stuff to it. So I was kind of balancing things out a little bit, at least in my mind.
[00:12:02] [ramen package crinkling].
[00:12:04] The ramen.
[00:12:08] [bowl tapping countertop].
[00:12:08] The eggs have had a little chance to chill. We’re going to crack these open.And these you want to be fairly gentle with cracking because they’re not super, super hard boiled. I would call it the medium-rare of eggs. We want to make sure these eggs are super dried off or they’ll splatter like crazy. And I basically have hard boiled eggs, the six-minute egg, sitting in a in a pan frying.
[00:12:41] [egg sizzling].
[00:12:41] To get a little bit of crisp texture to them. A little bit of sugar, a little bit of soy sauce, and a little bit of water. We’re gonna whisk that together and then pour it on at the very end when we’re ready to serve.
Cass Herrington: [00:12:59] Oh my gosh it smells amazing. How is it, Jen?
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:03] Really good! It’s great.
Dan Wu: [00:13:04] Here’s an egg for you.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:05] Oh, thank you.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:06] We’ll hear more from Chef Dan Wu in a minute.
Cass Herrington: [00:13:09] He’ll tell us about navigating two cultures as a teenager. The long haired kid who listened to heavy metal at school and also the son of Chinese immigrants at home.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:18] Stay tuned. We’ll be right back.
[00:13:25] [music fade in].
Cass Herrington: [00:13:25] Skillet it is brought to you by… you.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:28] Seriously, we would love your support.
Cass Herrington: [00:13:30] So we’re going to go back to our public radio roots for a little fund drive. Fun fund drive.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:37] I remember my first fund drive. It was 2003 and I was a little baby radio producer. There was a ton of good food and banjo music every night.
Cass Herrington: [00:13:47] Wait, like a real banjo?
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:13:48] Yep. When things got tough they played the banjo. And people donated just to make them stop. There was also a lot of singing the phone number to folk tunes.
Cass Herrington: [00:13:57] That sounds a little traumatizing, um, but really would you serenade us?
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:00] Well, okay. 1 800 323 92… ok that’s enough.
Cass Herrington: [00:14:06] Yep I agree.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:08] [laugh] Anyway we’re coming to you today to ask for your help.
Cass Herrington: [00:14:10] Yes, dear listener, if you enjoy Skillet and want to support our mission of sharing culture through food we would love your support.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:18] We are now accepting donations through our website — www.skilletpodcast.com.
Cass Herrington: [00:14:22] Ten dollars makes a huge difference.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:25] It pays for gas when we talk to people who live near us in Asheville, North Carolina and it helps us travel when we record Season 2.
Cass Herrington: [00:14:32] It also covers the obscene amount of office supplies we use to make these stories.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:37] There are color coded note cards y’all.
Cass Herrington: [00:14:40] Any amount really helps because Skillet is entirely self-funded.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:44] Seriously our budget is zero dollars.
Cass Herrington: [00:14:47] So if you’re able, would you consider supporting Skillet through our website, please?
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:14:51] And if your budget is tight, we totally understand, or if donating isn’t your thing, we would be eternally grateful if you gave us some stars or wrote a review on Apple podcasts.
Cass Herrington: [00:15:01] That would be glorious. Thank you.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:15:03] OK. Hold on a minute. I’m going to go get my banjo.
Cass Herrington: [00:15:05] No!
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:15:06] Don’t make us break out the banjo! Support Skillet today at www.skilletpodcast.com
Cass Herrington: [00:15:18] [music fade out].
Cass Herrington: [00:15:18] So we find ourselves in the kitchen with Dan Wu enjoying a bowl of ramen.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:15:22] I still remember how tasty it was. I really wish I was eating some right now.
Cass Herrington: [00:15:27] Me too.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:15:27] After we slurped up all that ramen goodness, we talked to Dan about his childhood.
Cass Herrington: [00:15:32] We started by asking him about his family’s immigration journey from China to the U.S.
Dan Wu: [00:15:37] I came to the states when I was eight. We moved to Fargo, North Dakota. The reason for that was my dad was applying to graduate schools in America in the ’80s when Deng Xiaoping kind of opened the country up to be able to leave, because in the decades previous you couldn’t even leave the country period for any reason and then Deng Xiaoping kind of open us up to the West and allowed people to apply for graduate school. So my dad applied to every school we could think of in America and the first one that offered him money was North Dakota State University. So he took it. So to me that’s also an interesting element of the immigrant experience is so many immigrants could have ended up really anywhere. Like they weren’t, it’s not like we chose Fargo, North Dakota. So the the Ethiopian immigrant you meet in Minnesota didn’t necessarily choose Minnesota, you know what I mean. That’s the place that would take him; that’s the place that had the resources, whatever it was. So we moved to Lexington when I was 12 and then at one point around when I was in high school my dad, his professor, his boss, was retiring and he thought to himself like, I’m not going to go out there and try to compete for a job with 20-something grad students’ So he did what a lot of immigrant intellectuals do in that situation. He opened up a Subway sandwich shop.
Dan Wu: [00:16:59] And anecdotally, I don’t know what their numbers on this, but anecdotally I’ve heard that kind of story over and over again where people come here for either a professional or academic sort of job and then at some point they see the opportunity and they open up a nail salon, a bodega, a laundromat, a restaurant and that’s such a common sort of beautiful story that I want I keep telling over and over again about the immigrant experience. They come here they have opportunities that they don’t have in their homeland and they seize it and they take it on. So he and my mom did that. I worked for them for a little bit and then they start opening multiple stores. And of course being the second generation, I’m technically either second generation or 1.5 generation coming here as a kid. It depends on how you want to define it. Of course, I wanted nothing to do with their business. I wanted to study art in school, which as, Chinese parents I don’t even know how they let me study art in school.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:17:57] Can you talk a little bit about when you first started making ramen?
Dan Wu: [00:18:01] Ramen is an interesting sort of through line through my entire life. The first thing I ever learned to make for myself as a kid, as a latchkey kid in Lexington, was scrambled eggs and ketchup. The second dish I ever learned to make was, I would take boxes of macaroni and cheese because they were super cheap. I would boil the macaroni and throw away the cheese pack because we were Chinese and we don’t eat powdered cheese, and I would look in the fridge for whatever leftovers my mom had, and I would throw them all in there and it was basically like a macaroni noodle soup. It’s funny and I wonder if other immigrants are like this. I think you live a compartmentalized life. I think when you go home you’re the Chinese son eating the Chinese food and taking off your shoes at the door and your house smells like whatever it does and you have old Chinese calendars on your walls and you’re a little bit embarrassed to bring your friends home. I think that that level of embarrassment is kind of that not wanting to break those walls down. Like at school, I’m the kid that likes heavy metal and I like to draw on my notebooks and I tell stupid jokes and whatever like, that’s me. When I’m at school, I’m kind of not Asian at all. There’s no Asian element to me except my face. When I go home, I don’t bring the heavy metal and I don’t bring the drawing and I don’t bring the goofiness home. I’m the Chinese kid of Chinese parents again. So it’s as we’re sort of compartmentalize life.
Cass Herrington: [00:19:35] You know, navigating that in a predominantly white town.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:19:39] In the South.
Cass Herrington: [00:19:40] Yeah. What was that like for you?
[00:19:45] My experience wasn’t unique, I think. And I’ve come to a more keen awareness of sort of where Asian-Americans lie and the racial conversations that happen in America. We occupy this weird middle space. For me, the level of discrimination or prejudice or negative interactions that I experienced as a kid, and as a young person growing up, in some ways were always fairly minor. They were micro-aggressions. They were stereotypes. They were kids making ching chong noises at me. There were people pulling the ends up their eyes at me making fun of my name making fun of food. You know kind of pretty typical kind of stuff. I was never beaten up for it. I was never, you know, it was never overt in that sort of way. And you know, Asians by and large coming from more Confucianist backgrounds were sort of acculturated to be kind of bowed to authority, to not rock the boat, to kind of just put our heads down and work. That’s been the ethos of the Asian-American experience in America is like, just put your head down, don’t make waves, don’t shout, don’t protest, don’t put your hand up. Just do the work. You won’t get noticed, you won’t get harassed. You’ll get by and you’ll prosper.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:21:17] Did you feel Southern? Did you feel like a Kentuckian?
Dan Wu: [00:21:22] No, definitely not that part. I don’t know that I ever thought that was an option for me. I don’t think I ever thought of that as an identity that I could take on, right?
Cass Herrington: [00:21:36] What do you mean?
Dan Wu: [00:21:36] [sigh]. I mean, and it also kind of depends on where you, how you define Southern. But you know, especially as a kid, it’s like, and this goes back to the where are you from question, right? If you ask another classmate of mine where are you from, oh I was born at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington, born and raised. Where are you from? Well I’m obviously the other. I’m obviously not from here. And in some ways I obviously can never be from here. I’ve seen it happen with other people, like there’s always a another level of interrogation. Really? Like you know what I mean? Is that because of my face? Fuck you. You know, I mean, but that’s what that is and that’s what you get. So for me Lexington was just a place I lived. And then it wasn’t really until I got back to Lexington as an adult and really started like putting down roots and establishing myself in terms of a career and as a public figure and then I was like, OK, this is the place where all this stuff is happening for me. This is the place where I’m able to create this stuff, like, this is my home. And now as an adult with that sort of lens, I have this almost much more strident yearning to call myself a Kentuckian, to call myself a Lexingtonian and to say this place belongs to me and I belong to this place. In some ways you know, a little bit of a middle finger to the people who wouldn’t let me define myself that way and also to kind of help redefine what that means. So when I go out to San Francisco in my early 20s after college there were all these other kids like me, either born in the States or came to the States as a kid, who speak two languages, maybe one of them poorly, who had that same sort of disconnection. And many of them from other places, like San Francisco is one of those magnet cities where everybody you meet is from somewhere else and we all bonded together so even though I didn’t speak Tagalog and he didn’t speak, you know, and Matthew Abia, he didn’t speak Mandarin, but we both had the same experience. You know what I mean. And we we created those kind of friendships and allyships and, you know, I realize and I think a lot of immigrants have, a lot of good young immigrants or people who come here when they’re young, have this experience that you don’t belong with the old culture. Your language starts slipping a little bit, your culture starts slipping a little bit, you don’t want to hang out with the old folks, but you can’t fully blend in with your otherwise whiter American peers or environment, especially in places like Lexington where there isn’t that sort of concentration of ethnic populations. I got back to Lexington and it kind of drove me to start cooking for myself, which I’ve always done since high school, since before high school, but never took that seriously. I kind of dabbled in it and then here, I suddenly realized like, oh, I would complain about the gnocchi at an Italian restaurant and then I was like I can make better gnocchi than that. And I was like oh, OK, I’m going to go get some cookbooks and look at YouTube and start practicing and start really honing that stuff and so it’s kind of an interesting irony that if I still live in San Francisco or New York I highly doubt I would be in the food industry and I pretty much guarantee I would not have my own restaurant.
Cass Herrington: [00:25:21] Yet here he is the chef at his own ramen shop in central Kentucky.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:25:26] And his reverence for ramen is known across the country.
Cass Herrington: [00:25:28] He even made it on the TV cooking competition Master Chef in 2014.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:25:33] Being on the show made Dan a public figure of sorts. He was on the local news and in the Huffington Post. He also interviewed more than 100 people on his podcast The Culinary Evangelist.
Cass Herrington: [00:25:44] He takes his platform seriously by standing up for other people and increasing the representation of Asian-Americans in his community.
Dan Wu: [00:25:52] And now when I, you know, in the age that we live in, I think a lot of people are very galvanized to be politically active and to be fired up and angry and and really out there doing stuff. Everywhere I look, when I go out to protests, when I go out to committee meetings, or strategy planning sessions at non-profits, I look around and I’m the only Asian person in the room all the time. But I think in my adult life the more I think about politics and culture, the more I’m an independent sort of entrepreneur and business owner who can kind of call my own shots and having discovered this latent sort of public persona side of myself that started with Master Chef, I realized, well, if people are going to talk to me, if I’m going to go on local TV, I’m going to be a public figure, I might as well do something decent with it, not just like, hey, come to my shop and eat my soup you know what I mean? But say like hey, his Thursday we’re going to donate money to Kentucky Refugee Ministries because I’m trying to use my little soapbox, my little place of privilege to to try to help other people.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:26:57] So if you think about that twelve year old boy who used to be, you know, you’re sitting at the table, you’re by yourself, you’re mixing up some crazy macaroni and experiencing that compartmentalization that you mentioned about feeling one way at school in one way at home. What would you like to say to that little twelve year old boy? What do you think he needs to hear?
[00:27:23] I don’t know. I think about being a fan of science fiction, I think about timelines a lot. I think about time travel a lot and not a lot because at some point you think about time travel on your brain just [explode sound] and you can’t anymore. I don’t know what twelve year old Dan would make of a 44 year old restauranteur, tattooed Dan coming back to tell him anything. I would say, “You’re doing okay kid.” You know, the kid sitting at the table watching G.I. Joe in the afternoon after school, two hours before his parents got home, cooking for himself and drawing pictures and I think I did OK honestly. [pause] Yeah. [sniff]
[00:28:18] So when we were cooking today, when you’re smelling it, when you have the ingredients in your hands, when you’re chopping. Does it remind you of anything?
[00:28:28] It makes me remember, I actually take a good amount of joy in eating by myself. I used to eat by myself and read a comic book and now I put on a podcast. There’s a there’s a weird level of sort of comfort to it. And even though now that I make my own, you know, at the restaurant, make my own stock from scratch for 10 hours with great ingredients, and this is, you know, water and some spice powder and there’s too much sodium in it. I find myself not being able to judge it in that way and not being able to say like, oh, this is not as good because it’s still, I think that’s the thing with food. When people say like my grandmother made the best mac and cheese; probably not objectively true, but it doesn’t matter because that’s the thing that makes you think of Sunday afternoons, makes you think of running through her yard, makes you think of the way her hands looked when she was making it, and made you remember the nicknames that she called you, and her getting you to come and help and roll the dough or whatever it was. That’s just the important stuff with food. And for me if I could ever do anything for people is to create like a new memory-making food for them when they’re older and living somewhere else to be like, “Oh man. This reminds me of that really great ramen place I went to, and I remember when I had a cold and I got this big bowl of spicy miso soup and I went up my nose,” and you know what I mean like that? I think as a chef, any chef, like if we can do that they’ll be pretty amazing.
Cass Herrington: [00:30:02] Well then it has been a pleasure. Thank you so much.
Dan Wu: [00:30:04] Thank you. I appreciate it.
[00:30:09] [theme music].
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:09] There you have it, a cozy episode to get you through the winter.
Cass Herrington: [00:30:12] I feel a little warmer already.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:14] No matter the season, we’re grateful that you spent some time with Skillet today.
Cass Herrington: [00:30:17] And we have some folks to thank.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:19] Most importantly, thanks to Dan Wu for sharing his story. We were strangers when we cooked together for this episode, but he’s a true friend of the show now.
Cass Herrington: [00:30:27] And big congrats are in order. Dan just got engaged.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:31] Their officiant will be someone you might remember: Ashley Smith from episode 1.
Cass Herrington: [00:30:36] Speaking of Ashley, congratulations to the new mama. She gave birth to her twins and they’re so cute.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:43] See it’s one big happy family here on Skillet.
Cass Herrington: [00:30:46] A family that loves to eat for sure.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:30:49] You can find more about Dan’s restaurant Atomic Ramen in our show notes.
Cass Herrington: [00:30:53] Special thanks also to Dan’s friend Wyn Morris for lending us his kitchen for this recording. We recorded this on Halloween and Wyn’s house was all decked out with witches and spider webs.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:04] They were seriously the best Halloween decorations I’ve ever seen. There was even a fog machine.
Cass Herrington: [00:31:09] Check out Wyn’s haunted house and behind the scenes photos from the interview on our social media.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:14] We’re on Instagram and Facebook at Skilletpodcast.
Cass Herrington: [00:31:17] And if you’re listening on the Apple podcast app, we would be forever grateful if you reviewed or rated our show.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:24] It tells our Apple overlords to recommend the show to more people.
Cass Herrington: [00:31:28] It really works, so thanks for writing a review or rating us as many stars as you like. We recommend five.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:34] Thank you to our digital producer Rich Orris who kindly set up the donate button on our website.
Cass Herrington: [00:31:39] If you’re ready, willing, and able to support the show go over to www.SkilletPodcast.com.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:42] Coming up on the next episode of Skillet…
Keia Mastrianni: [00:31:47] How do you snag a rural boy from Cleveland County? You bake the man a pie.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:31:53] Hear how this humble dessert brought a farmer and a baker together.
Cass Herrington: [00:31:56] It’s a love story. A baker’s love for her community, partner, and herself. Just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Jen Nathan Orris: [00:32:03] I’ll get my tissues now.
Cass Herrington: [00:32:05] Join us in two weeks for the next episode of Skillet.