Kat L.







Growing up, I never baked with my mother. The oven in our Coney Island home was always stuffed with pots and pans, and baking sheets we never used. In another life, I know, my mother would have loved to have been a Midwest housewife who baked all sorts of cookies and pastries with her daughter, but food, for her, throughout her life, was something scarce, or meant to feed her family, or a means to show her family she loved them, but food was never something meant to be enjoyed. She just didn’t have that time or privilege when working full time as a manicurist, then as a mother, and a wife. On top of that, she took care of her aging parents.

I think one of the first, defining moments in her life she really sat down to enjoy food was in 2023, when we went to Tokyo together. We bought these delicious char siu bao, or Chinese roast pork buns from TIM HO WAN. They’re bite-sized, like dim sum, and came in a trio. Back in our hotel, my 72-year-old mom ate all three of them. It wasn’t the ramen in Shinjuku, or the fresh sashimi in the fish markets of Tsukiji that made my mother’s trip in Japan memorable. It was those there pork buns, ones that reminded her of her childhood in Hong Kong, where dim sum restaurants were vibrant and abundant, or her Sunday mornings in New York City Chinatown, enjoying dim sum with her old-aged parents, and extended family.

You know, to this day, my mom and I rarely, if ever, say we love each other. But we do spoil each other with food. Back at home in Renton, I became a chaotic kitchen wizard, and experimented until I could recreate those char siu baos that my mom loved so much. I succeeded and developed the recipe on page 56 in my sophomore cookbook, MODERN ASIAN KITCHEN: FOOD has not always been my career, but in 2020, when COVID happened, remember COVID? I started SUBTLE ASIAN BAKING and found so much joy and comfort in sharing and celebrating our Asian heritage through baking and cooking. My group exploded. But then, I left Seattle to go back to NYC, to watch my father die.

When his last breath became air, I, to this day, do not know what his dreams and wishes were. And I realized I did not want to repeat in his footsteps and live life without following and achieving my dreams. I have a son who is 10; I can’t tell him to dream big if I’m living a lie.

So, I took a deep dive and left my 13-year career in healthcare as a doctor of physical therapist to become today, a full time cookbook author, food writer, and activist. Today, I carry my father’s dreams as well on my shoulders, along with my grandfathers’ dreams. Because what I achieve today and moving forward, is a culmination of their hard work and efforts.

With my group, Subtle Asian Baking, I’ve raised over $101K since 2020 for various causes, fueled by a passion to stop Asian hate, now maintained by the need and want to spread Asian love. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and have had my fair share of witnessing and experiencing Asian hate. But today, I want to use my voice, my recipes, and my community to spread love, to spread the joys, of our food and flavors, and I’ve achieved that with two cookbooks, a third in the works, and the continual good we do with Subtle Asian Baking.

To close, I want to talk about a recent collaboration in Seattle. PAGE 190, My Gochujang Chocolate mochi cake, which you are sampling, inspired the brewmaster, Barry Chan at Lucky Envelope Brewing in Fremont to craft this Gochujang Chocolate Stout, and this is delicious by the way, so you have to make your way there to grab a few cans or try in on tap, and together, we’re raising money for various causes like ACRS in Seattle and The Very Asian Foundation, with our proceeds. I have a beer named after my recipe and me, how cool is that.

Remember David Chang’s chili crunch controversy? When the news broke, World Spice in Seattle and I launched our very own Chili Crisp mix overnight, and called it Pink Chili Crisp. Girl power! Good food should not be trademarked or gatekept- and if you need a chili crisp recipe, I have one on page 176.

My mother has always seen food as a means; I too see it as a means, but also as a vessel to show love, to spread love, to spread joy, and to fulfill my dreams, and I hope this inspires you too to think about the food you eat, the food you share, and to do whatever good you can in your lives, before all our breaths become air.