The Power of Food for Peter Do

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As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the world as we know it, a rise of anti-Asian xenophobia and racism threatens us, too. Here, Vietnam-born, New York-based fashion designer Peter Do reflects on the social issue through the topic of food, which has long been a source of community and inspiration for the 2020 LVMH Prize finalist. At a time when it’s more important now than ever before to support local Asian business facing the risk of closure, Do shares his favorite eateries in the city.

Besides being in the studio, I spend most of my time in the kitchen. I cook in silence. When I cook, it’s for an hour or so, and then I feel better. I don’t even have to think. Sometimes I problem solve and use the time to figure out how to put points A to B to C, like a puzzle. Some of my earliest memories are of cooking in Vietnam with my Dad, or with my grandmother who was a caterer. Sitting in our family kitchen, you didn’t have to ask me twice: I’ll peel the garlic, I’ll peel the onions. I was the oldest and there were so many younger kids around. I was the caretaker and I liked cooking for everyone, too. Sometimes it’s not about the meal itself, but simply just the act of cooking. Today, I often cook for my team, and even then when I sit down I don’t even have to eat. We eat as a group. I don’t eat alone. I never eat alone; if I’m alone, I’m not hungry. I’m a social eater. I miss this act of eating together.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, there have been a few times when we as Asian Americans have not felt safe. We’ve been told to go back to our country or called the Coronavirus as if we ourselves are the threat, and this has had a real impact on our daily lives. I’ve lived in New York City for so long—ten years at least—and I’ve never experienced this before. There are all kinds of hate in the world, but I hadn’t felt the kind of hate for being Asian until now. My team and I are Asian but we are also Americans. Americans that were born here or immigrants from Asia; Asian Americans with human complexities—humans. So now more than ever it’s important to support our Asian communities, even if now we can’t eat together as a family. Especially here, in NYC, my home. This is where I learned about different kinds of food. I had my first sushi here, my first taste of Hainanese chicken, my first larb and papaya salad. In Vietnam, my Dad cooked so much we never went out. And even if we did it was for Vietnamese food.

So being in New York City is a freedom. And to keep that alive, we must keep small businesses alive. You’ll notice that I didn’t put any high-end restaurants in the list below…or say, omakase. For me, Vietnamese food is humble and family style food, it’s everyday food. Pho is comfort food. Right now, I go straight to pho. You get that giant plate of herbs and Thai basil and bean sprouts; it’s fragrant and comforting. Pho is working-people kind of food. My kind of food.

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createdAt:Tue, 31 Mar 2020 13:52:45 +0000
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