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Huang time coming

Is Orlando expatriate Eddie Huang the next Anthony Bourdain?

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I have this theory about why chefs are so popular right now. It's not just their function as middlemen facilitating the ascendancy of bacon in everyone's life. (Well, a little.) It's because in a world where elected officials are liars, bankers are thieves, and priests are … well … in a world where a suit is no longer a symbol of trustworthiness, a person who creates success with his hands is morally attractive.

A person who's more invested in telling his honest opinion than in shucking and jiving to become a celebrity is even more so – witness the success of Anthony Bourdain, who won't endorse a nonstick pan or a processed food if it means he can't call Sandra Lee's food "a crime against humanity" anymore. But Tony's mellowing a bit. He's got wives and offspring to provide for these days, and the returns on name-calling are slowing down for him.

This is where Eddie Huang comes in.

Huang, who grew up in Orlando, is a chef, writer, erstwhile lawyer, blogger and on-camera personality. Combining the superpowers of a ferocious work ethic, a fearsome vocabulary, humility in the face of failure, and a take-no-prisoners approach to other people's foolishness, Huang has launched himself into the public consciousness as a cartoony, Asianer-than-thou hell-raiser, labeling himself by turns Chairman Bao, the Chinkstronaut, Sars Blackmon or Kim Jong-Trill. He just can't seem to stop himself from talking smack where he sees the need: His righteous indignation over everything from Ethiopian chef Marcus Samuelsson's insufficient blackness to Asian-fusion media darling David Chang's culinary inauthenticity has found wide-throated expression in the last 18 months.

Eddiemania was already bubbling under when his second restaurant received, infamously, a zero-star review from the New York Times in October 2010. Huang had owned Baohaus, a mostly-takeout Chinese bun joint, since early 2010, and the stonerlicious Xiao Ye was his stab at a more ambitious menu and room. After he responded, not defensively (unlike Guy Fieri's recent bitchfest when the same thing happened to him) or angrily, but by basically agreeing with the reviewer that he wasn't ready for a full-service restaurant, his stardom kicked into a higher gear.

His memoir is titled Fresh off the Boat (Spiegel & Grau, 288 pages) – as are his blog (Fresh off the Boat) and his VICE web series. The book traces Huang's childhood in Orlando, growing up obsessed with food, basketball, hip-hop, weed, fighting and sneakers (not necessarily in that order). His parents were both born in Taiwan, making them, in Huang's extensive Chingrish-slang-and-reclaimed-slur lexicon, FOBs (fresh off the boat) and himself an ABC (American-born Chinese) – not the easiest roles to play in 1980s Orlando. 

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