Podcast from Intelatin: A Pachuco Making Chinese Dumplings

Jul 14, 2016
12:55 PM

I’m going to tell you a life story about how I came up with the idea for A Pachuco Making Chinese Dumplings. It takes a couple twists and it assumes a bit about the ChefSteps story but I bet you I am more right than wrong…. Here we go:

Chris Young was a chef at Fat Duck, London. He met Nathan Myhrvold, Chief Technology Officer at Microsoft. When Chris left Fat Duck, he called Nathan and together they created a new orbit. Chris worked with Nathan, Gabe Newell, Grant Crilly, Ryan Smith and a team of individuals to eventually create a book that cost $625. This book was called Modernist Cuisine.

Eventually, the team realized that Modernist Cuisine was super rarified and inspired by MOOCS, Udemy and Khan Academy (Gates Foundation) they created an educational play in Seattle called ChefSteps.com. The mission, it seems, is to educate people about cooking with free educational content and to sell some cooking equipment along the way. From Spring 2011 to July 2016, 371k individuals have signed up for the ChefSteps orbit. 532k have liked it on FB. 106k have followed it on Instagram and 49k have followed it on Twitter. Total, their engagement is at 1M.
I went to a LAVA session at UCLA in June and I was introduced by my friend Darren Eng to a man named Jacob from a company named Intellectual Ventures (IV.) I invited Jacob to my office and he told me the basics about IV: (Coincidentally founded by Nathan Myhrvold.)  Randomly, I follow ChefSteps on Facebook and I ignore 95% of the content they release because it seems to bland for me. Because I am interested in Latin American, African, Indigenous and Asian cultures, I tend to ignore most of the European cultures that make up 95% of media. But this month, ChefSteps released a joint venture between Ten Speed Press and Andrea Nguyen to showcase recipes from her book. Because this fell into my Asian bucket, I clicked the link and watched the video for how to prepare Chinese Dumplings. My mind stewed on this material and then a few minutes later, I had an idea: What would happen if Luis Valdez translated this video into pachuco and Edward James Olmos brought it to life?
Background: In 1942, José Díaz was found dead at Sleepy Lagoon in Commerce, California on the morning of August 2,1942. Quote from Wikipedia: “The resulting criminal trial is now generally viewed as lacking in the fundamental requirements of due process. Seventeen Latino youths were indicted on the murder charges and placed on trial. The courtroom was small and during the trial the defendants were not allowed to sit near, or to communicate with, their attorneys. None of those charged were permitted to change their clothes during the trial by order of Judge Fricke at the request of the district attorney on the grounds that the jury should see the defendants in the zoot suits that were “obviously” only worn by “hoodlums”. Every time a name was mentioned by a witness or the district attorney, regardless of how damning the statement was, the named defendant was required to stand up. Judge Fricke also permitted the chief of the Foreign Relations Bureau of the Los Angeles sheriff’s office, E. Duran Ayres, to testify as an “expert witness” that Mexicans as a community had a “blood thirst” and a “biological predisposition” to crime and killing, citing the culture of human sacrifice practiced by their Aztec ancestors. In October 1944, the state Court of Appeals reversed the 12 defendants’ convictions and criticized the trial judge for his bias and mishandling of the case.”
In 1978, right at the time that I was arriving in the United States from México, a 38 year old Chicano named Luis Valdez brought a unique creative vision to the Mark Taper Forum in downtown Los Angeles. 40,000 watched the play and then it moved to New York to play on Broadway. In 1981, it was made into a film that probably had a limited audience.
Without a doubt and without discrediting anything about Valdez’s masterwork, the element that resonated the most in American culture was the character of El Pachuco portrayed by Edward James Olmos, himself a 34-year-old Chicano. It cemented Eddie Olmos as the key Latino actor that would represent “us” for the next thirty years in filmwork like The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez, Miami Vice, Stand and Deliver, American Me, My Family and Selena. Olmos’ characters of El Pachuco, Lieutenant Castillo and Montoya Santana impacted me greatly. They formed for me a vision of a third country, Aztlán, which my parents were inculcating into me via the Chicano culture that was making its way into American entertainment. Starring: Luis Valdez, Eddie Olmos, Esai Morales, Lou Diamond Phillips and Rosanna DeSoto.
So, there I was, in bed in Santa Ana, watching Andrea Nguyen on ChefSteps on an iPhone and I wondered why Aztlán wasn’t being represented more in the United States. I surfed around the ChefSteps website, filtered it for Mexican food and found limited results. Four real hits and four of them are monumentally disastrous:
  1. Carnitas with mole (This is never done.)
  2. 30 minute mole (This can’t be done.)
  3. Elote (Really? A tutorial for how to grill corn?)
  4. Carne Asada Tacos (ok)

I began to think: Who could bring Aztlán to ChefSteps? What would happen if El Pachuco followed the recipe for Chinese Dumplings and related it back to his homies in Aztlán?

But here’s the point of it all for my DACA Dreamers: Heston Blumenthal, Chris Young, Nathan Myhrvold, Ryan Smith, Gabe Newell, Grant Crilly …. imagine in your head the following: European Males Banding Together to Succeed in Life. Cumulative advantage. They connect with European male financiers, European male publishers, European male media tycoons and they make deals on their Yachts in Europe! I’m not fucking joking. Nathan Myhrvold and Chris Young had their first meeting outside Fat Duck in Nathan’s yacht in the Mediterranean. Knowing this now…. and knowing this well…. I did what any normal businessman would do but I did it with my money which is significantly less than Nathan’s money: I sourced and interviewed 25 women and I put them into a collective called MXCNAS. I contracted a talented photographer to shoot and style their work and now I have over 300 elements of high quality content. Now, I have to find somewhere to put it. Amateurs (and lucky fools) at this juncture would create social media profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter and attempt to cultivate an audience, starting with friends and family. I am neither an amateur nor a lucky fool so I did the next best thing: Connect with professionals who might understand both Aztlán and my vision. I have met with over 50 heavy hitters in the Cali Baja game to see if we can create an equivalent orbit in the same way that Nathan and Chris did several years ago.
I connected with media homies like Julio Ricardo Varela in Boston and Héctor Luis Alamo in Chicago to see if we can build this thing out on an independent platform. I am hopeful that we too will succeed but it all depends on two factors: Risk Capital and Entrepreneurial Will. So, I remain in search of my own Nathan Myhrvold. We thought that Edward James Olmos could be our very own Nathan Myhrvold but that vato went to Battlestar Galactica, I think…. And, Eddie doesn’t have the same capital as the former CTO of Microsoft.

Music performed by Lalo Guerrero, Carlos Santana, Soraya, Rosana, Los Lobos, Santo & Johnny, The Blue Agave and El Chicano. The next Intelatin episode will be released on the supermoon of August 2016.


Intelatin is a monthly radio broadcast hosted by Sergio C. Muñoz in Los Angeles, California. It is published on Latino Rebels and Gozamos.com, marketed by Audioboom.com and podcasted on iTunes. You can also find us on Stitcher. Latin American culture is the focus of the program: music, film, food, literature and business. It is in its fifth year of production and is dedicated to the passage of the federal DREAM Act. The radio broadcast for Intelatin was started in 2012 at California State University Long Beach as outreach for their majority Latinx campus. The broadcast aired on KBeach Global and KKJZ 88.1 FM. Connect on Twitter @Intelatin.