All VICELAND’s food-based shows are built around the personality of their hosts, and in the case of Huang’s World (starting 8.30pm March 26), that means the particular kind of worldview that comes from being a hip-hop-loving Asian-American kid growing up in Florida.
Lawyer/restaurateur/dealer/author/producer Eddie Huang, who calls himself “the human panda”, is passionate about politics and culture, and it really shows here. With minimal voice-over, unscripted interactions, off-the-cuff detours and his say-what’s-on-your-mind attitude to conversation, it’s a show you can sink your teeth into.
G’day Eddie. How is Huang’s World different to other food shows?
Well, I would say that with our show, food is a vehicle that we use to get from place to place. It’s not necessarily a show about food. There are a lot of other shows, where the show is about food, and the show begins and ends on a plate. For us the show begins on a plate and then goes to all kinds of places – we went to the Women’s March on DC. We went to gay pride marches in Istanbul. We’ve been in yurts, drinking fermented mare’s milk. We do fine dining, we do things that may not even qualify as dining. I’ve eaten yoghurt, made by a squatter, in a Detroit factory, that fermented his own yoghurt, by just leaving it out in the sun. So, our show really is about lifestyle, existence, politics, values. And food is what gets us from place to place. It’s not a show about food.
Is that your mission statement for the show?
Well, it’s more of a memo than a mission statement. Have you seen Jerry Maguire? I just had to say that, because if you’ve seen Jerry Maguire, it’s what he says. Everyone’s like, “It’s a mission statement!” He’s like, “It was a memo!” Then he gets fired.
Ha! What have you learned since you started?
The main thing is that we’re a lot more similar than we are different. That’s the thing I constantly see around the world. A lot of times we will go to exotic places, that people have preconceived notions, stigmas, stereotypes about. The reason we go is so that they can see beyond the things that ad agencies or storytellers will point out. You spend 10-12 days in a country, it starts to feel like home. Anywhere can be home. You really realise that the things we consider different can become familiar very quickly. Celebrate difference right? I like to celebrate difference, but I like to point out that difference is not something that should prevent us from coming together.
As a host, you seem to careen from “dickhead” mode to more serious. How do you judge that?
I don’t, purposely, click into serious mode and I’m never, purposely, in jerk-off mode. I’ve always felt intelligence comes in many forms and voices and faces, and I don’t feel like I even need to put my pants on to say something smart. If I feel like saying something, I just say it. If I don’t have anything smart to say then, I just don’t say anything. I think that is the beauty of the show, is that I’m very... I’m not guarded. Who you see on camera is who I really am. Anyone who works at VICE, seeing me round the office, seeing me round the neighbourhood, I’m the same guy! If someone turns on a camera in front of me it doesn’t really change anything. I’m not trying. I work hard, but I’m not trying. And I think that’s what comes across in the show. If there isn’t an intense moment, if there isn’t something complex for me to pontificate on, I’ll just eat and fart. But if there is, I’ll step up and I’ll say something. I try not to make mountains out of molehills and I never will force a story that’s not there.
Like in the first episode, in Orlando, there’s a scene where you go, “No, I’m not doing this.”
Yes. I would never do anything that I don’t believe in. And I think that comes across in the show. Before the show, during the show and after the show, what’s most important to me is that I represent myself and my family, and my values. So I always am very careful not to say or do anything I don’t believe in and I hope the audience appreciates that.
Even making that scene part of the show adds to the “authentic” feelings. You don’t cut it, you go, “Let’s show Eddie hating life!”
Yeah, we show everything. I think honesty is just very important to everyone that’s involved. From the people who own and run VICELAND, to the people that bought the show, to the producers, to myself. Honesty is what the entire show is founded on.
As someone with a paper-bag stomach, I have to ask: do you ever get sick?
I frequently get sick. I get the flu, I’ve gotten hives, I pooped my pants. Anything that can happen with my body, usually does.
That’s strangely comforting to hear... Anyway, great talking to you, mate.
I hope you got enough for the readers of Horse & Hound, and it was nice speaking with you.