Jun 5, 2023
Eating righteously with Jaeki Cho
The founder of Righteous Eats, a virally popular TikTok account, discusses his mission of highlighting immigrant-owned eateries
If you’re looking for a place to eat that’s a little off the beaten path, most likely not in your neighborhood and definitely delicious, you could do worse than follow Righteous Eats on TikTok or Instagram. We’re talking tips like Egyptian seafood in Astoria, Filipino delicacies in Woodside, dim sum in Bensonhurst, Afghani fare in Kensington, Chino-Latino cuisine in the Upper West Side. You get the picture.
Actually, you really get the picture if you follow Righteous Eats and its founder Jaeki Cho, who is this week’s guest on “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast.” Cho has made it a mission to highlight immigrant- and minority-owned restaurants serving super authentic (or authentically innovative) food and celebrate the cultures and stories and people behind that food.
Cho, to be fair, is more Queens than Brooklyn, but we’ll let that slide because he gives us a few killer local recommendations. Cho is a content creator, a reformed magazine editor a co-owner of a street style boutique called Alumni — with outposts in Brooklyn and Queens — a co-producer of the 2016 documentary “Bad Rap,” which featured a then-unknown Awkwafina, and a pandemic-born TikTok star turned new media entrepreneur. We’ll talk about who he is, where he comes from — which is as fascinating as the stories he highlights every day — and … what he likes to eat in a neighborhood near you.
This interview has been edited for concision and clarity. You can listen to it in its entirety in the player above or wherever you get your podcasts.
Explain what Righteous Eats is. You’re not a review platform. You’re an appreciation platform, but of a very specific kind. What’s the pitch?
Righteous Eats is essentially a platform where we highlight eateries based in New York City and beyond owned and operated by POCs, immigrants, and mom and pap businesses, brick and mortars. And thank you for saying that: We’re not a review platform. There’s a specific skill set and know-how knowledge that requires you to have the authority and the fluency to be able to review a particular eatery, or review a specific type of artistic expression. I don’t think that I have the know-how, or the authority to really do that. So I like to say that we highlight the eateries, we feature what we love, what we like.
You’re definitely knowledgeable about specific cuisines that are of the immigrant community. You are very good at describing what the food is and explaining what you’re eating. Can you give an example of a recent outing that you guys did? We’re not going to find a Righteous Eats visit to Peter Luger or Laser Wolf or something like that. These are like off the radar.
I love Peter Luger, by the way, and I think it’s still technically a family owned and operated operation. I don’t know if they had any sort of venture capitalist injection for them to scale their bacon and sauces, but I love Peter Luger, for the record.
I’m not knocking it. I do too. Pete Wells at the New York Times took them down a notch a couple of years ago.
Which I humbly disagree. I still love Luger. That’s still one of our favorite restaurants. But to your point, yes, if we were to collaborate, the likelihood of us featuring a restaurant where part of a giant Restaurant Group, for instance, much respect to Danny Meyer at Union Square Hospitality Group, but the likelihood of us highlighting Tacombi, specifically, is probably very slim. Now if Tacombi has like a nonprofit, where they’re providing meals and they wanted to do something on that aspect, I’ll be more than happy to have that conversation. But to your point, a lot of the eateries that we highlight are owned and operated by first, or I would like to call 1.5 generation immigrants, somebody who might be born from somewhere else, but have immigrated to the states that have to get acclimated.
And they might not have the most fluency when it comes down to essentially doing what we’re doing. They don’t understand what it means to be interviewed on a podcast. They don’t understand how to use social media in this current landscape, especially where things are changing on a daily basis. They don’t understand what a corporate comms is, what a press release is, what it means to hire a publicist to get themselves on end of the year lists. People and businesses that lack resources and those deals — that happens to do great work as eateries that provide not only great food, but significance in specific communities — we like to focus our efforts and championing them and share their stories.
Danny Meyer doesn’t need any more publicity than he’s already got, right.
I think we need Danny Meyer more than Danny Meyer needs us. [Laughs.]
And these are people who are very good at what they do. They’re very good at cooking, but they are not, to your point, media savvy. They don’t have a comms team. They don’t know how to get the word out. How do you find these people that are so good, but so under the radar?
I started this project during the pandemic. I saw this report, I think it was actually The Times that reported that one third of the eateries in New York City were going to close permanently. It was essentially a time of restaurant apocalypse. At the time, I had a massive following on TikTok for making these cooking videos that I was just doing for fun. And my audience were familiar with food. But I didn’t come from a traditional cooking background, I was just a hobbyist. So I thought a lot of these eateries that I frequent in places like Queens and Brooklyn and the Bronx, these eateries are anchored by members of the community that probably work in the restaurants in Manhattan. And if they’re not getting paid, they probably won’t be able to come back to the communities where they live in places like Queens, to go to the restaurants that was fueling this economy. So a lot of these places that I love and frequent, I just wanted to see how I could support them and show love. So we started off with spots that I have been frequenting and visiting for years.
@righteouseatsAnswering the age-old question, for the last time ! (probably not the last time but we can hope ❤️)♬ original sound – Righteous Eats
Do you want to shout any out?
Yeah, I would love to shout out Parksanbal. It’s a eatery in Flushing, Queens on 162 Street. They saw one thing on the menu. It’s a form of a Korean broth that uses meat from the head part of the cow, I don’t know the specifics, the lady never unveiled the secrets to me. But it’s absolutely delicious. And that’s in Flushing.
Head juice. It doesn’t sound appealing, but I bet it’s good.
Head juice. Yeah, for sure. I think after you boil it for many hours in a big pot, everything could taste delicious.
I’ll eat any part of an animal. I’m not picky. So that’s one. You said you got another one you want a share?
[Renee’s] is this Filipino restaurant has been a staple in Woodside for more than three decades. That was actually one of the first restaurants that I highlighted. It was actually one of the first places that I, as a kid, I think I was like 13 or 14, that I actually spent my own money at a sit down restaurant, ordering Filipino spaghetti.
@righteouseats Renee’s is Jaeki’s go-to destination for #filipinofood ♬ original sound – Righteous Eats
What’s your go-to order there?
When I go over there, I get the skewer spread. So it was like a Filipino barbecue spread. It’s a combination of savory and sweet, along with this dish called sizzling sisig, which is a pork dish that they bring it out to you in a seeming plate and they crack an egg. You mix it up, consume it with a bowl of garlic rice, not even fried rice, just garlic rice. And obviously chicken adobo, which is a Filipino staple, topped off with halo-halo, a Filipino dessert that’s rooted with ube, which is like this boot vegetable, kinda a potato, but has a purple texture of purple color, has sweetness to it, is nutty and sweet. And it’s delicious. Absolutely.
For someone who says they’re not an expert in the kitchen, you certainly are knowledgeable about what goes into the cuisine. Talk about the process, I know you guys pay for every meal. There’s no pay-for-play here. You choose who you’re gonna write about. Do you find a place that you love first and then approach them? And then you get access sometimes? Sometimes maybe not. What is a typical entry like?
I started this series on my own personal page, and then it became its own entity last year, April.
Professionally, like you have partners.
Yeah. And so our colleague, Rob Martinez, who is our executive producer, but also a shooter, editor, writer, extraordinaire. He’s somebody who is actually really invested in the food scene. He reads about the latest restaurants that has gotten Michelin stars, he reads all the gossip written on Eater. He’s in it, in it. So he puts us on to spots, and we kind of trust his barometer. “This chef used to be over there, over this spot, should we go?” And he’s like, “No, I don’t think so. I think we should go here instead.” And so he’s been able to help. Essentially, you’re serving as an editor on identify what stories I like. So he’s been a good point of reference. And a lot of the recommendations we get from the community. For instance, there was a restaurant in Woodside. It’s a restaurant that serves Bhutanese food from Bhutan.
Which I don’t think I’ve ever had. I wouldn’t know food from Bhutan.
Yeah, it’s also a country that’s actually not that easy to get into, because there’s like a foreign high quota. So this restaurant is called Zhego. That was a restaurant that was recommended by a member of the community.
@righteouseats Learned a ton about Bhutan and its cuisine on this visit. #RighteousEats #bhutanesefood #queensfood ♬ Can I Kick It? – A Tribe Called Quest
Meaning one of your followers?
Yes. Somebody who follows us and he recommended that to us that he actually wrote almost like an essay on why we should hit this place up. We didn’t ask this guy, we didn’t know who he was. And he just told us, “You should check this place out.” And we just gave it a try. And it was absolutely delicious. And a lot of the people from that part of the world, especially, like, the Himalayan culture, they receive guests as gods. So for us to pay, it’s actually disrespect. We had almost an intense argument about paying. They were almost getting angry that we wanted to pay. So I saw a shrine that they had, and I said, “Can we just pay the gods?” And it was like, “Okay, cool. You could do that.”
Yeah, I think I saw that video. Yeah. You want to see C-note on the shrine. You mentioned Rob. I love the series that he’s been doing on the Chino-Latino restaurant culture. It’s a phenomenon that I’ve noticed and wondered about in the back of my head, but never went out of my way to explore. This connection between the Asian, Chinese specifically, and Latin cuisines in one restaurant, I thought was so fascinating. Can you explain how that phenomenon came to be?
So Rob is half Puerto Rican and have Italian American. He didn’t grow up with a Spanish-speaking culture, per se. So it’s something that he decided to pick up as an adult. So he started the series called Spanish Sessions, where he goes to eateries, first person point of view, and he speaks to them in Spanish. And New York obviously has an entire diaspora of people that speak the Spanish language in various forms. So my business partner, Brian [Lee], he’s very adamant about finding angles that makes us unique.
You have to differentiate. Brian was a media executive prior to this?
He used to work at Group Nine and he’s worked with a company called Maker Studio, which eventually got acquired by Disney. He’s from that world. So he’s always looking at things from the angle that, “okay, how can we differentiate ourselves?” Then one of the ideas that he suggested was, there’s the American version of a Chinese food. There’s got a version of Chinese food and various other cultures. And I think that discussion just happened very organically. One of our other colleagues, Julia, who grew up in the Upper West Side, she said, “Hey, I actually know a restaurant from my neighborhood that I grew up going to called La Dinastia on 72nd Street, maybe we should add that up.” Apparently, back in the ‘70s and the ‘80s, there was a whole string of Chino-Latino restaurants, owned and operated by Chinese immigrants that immigrated not from China, but they were living in Argentina, Cuba, Dominican Republic and so on and so forth. In the ‘70s, and ‘80s, they moved up to the United States during the economic boom, during the Reagan era, I’m assuming in the ‘80s.
@righteouseatsChino-Latino restaurants and culture are struggling to survive in NYC 😞♬ original sound – Righteous Eats
They came and they did what they had access to, which is run and own and operate restaurants. Because they come from these Hispanic Latino culture, they essentially created these menus that would serve pork fried rice with chicharones, or like plantains. And as a lot of restaurants, parents create these restaurants, these immigrants create these restaurants so they could provide better opportunities for their kids. And it’s hard work. You’re serving like 80, 90, 100 hours a week in the kitchen and these businesses, so I don’t think a lot of these restaurants were meant to be passed down.
It was meant to be a springboard for the next generation to achieve, quote, unquote, greater things.
One hundred percent. So I think now there’s only like a handful of these Chino-Latino restaurants left and La Dinastia happens to be one of them. There are other spots in New York, like whether it’s Jardin de China on Junction Boulevard in Corona, or Flor de Mayo. But these other eateries, they weren’t too into the idea of us highlighting their stories. La Dinastia was actually welcoming because it is a second generation. The son of the original owner now owns and operates it, which somebody who’s around my age in his 30s. So you understand the importance of social media. So it was like, “Yeah, we’re down.”
This is probably off-topic and not an exact parallel, but there is a new Italian place that is not struggling for publicity in Carroll Gardens called Cafe Mars, that does Italian food, but they also highlight the way Italian food is interpreted in other cultures. So they have the way Argentinian cuisine interprets Italian food. They have a Japanese Italian menu item, which I haven’t been yet but I know people who’ve gone and sounds fun. But I love stuff like that the way different cultures interpret each other’s foods.
Yeah, totally. I grew up in a Korean household and [there are] a lot of the Koreanized Italian restaurants. My mother grew up in an era when she was eating Koreanized versions of Italian food. And these restaurants, they would serve you sweet cucumber pickles with the pasta. So when we first immigrated to the States in the late ‘90s, we go to a local Italian spot, even like a diner, and my mom would ask for pickles. And I was like, “Mom, that’s not how Italians [order] pasta. Stop embarrassing us, stop asking the waiter for pickles.”
You mentioned you’re ethnically Korean but you were actually raised in China for a few years before you came to the States. What is the Jaeki origin story?
I was born in Korea in the late ‘80s, specifically ’89, I’m 34 this year. And then in the mid ‘90s, my father had a situation in a city called Nanjing. It unfortunately is widely known in our history books in the States for the Nanjing Massacre that the Japanese had committed. But it’s a beautiful city with a lot of cultural history. And the thing with China is that it’s such a big country with a huge population. China has like a tier system for their cities, Beijing and Shanghai is in the top tier, and the city like Nanjing would be in the tier below that.
So they’re like Chicago?
[Laughs.] No offense to Chicago or Boston. Yeah, it would be like that. But the funny thing is, they’re second tier, quote-unquote, cities. Nanjing population is 10 million people, bigger that New York. So it was a thriving city in that sense. I started my elementary school there. So for those folks that might be listening that might not be familiar with the difference between Chinese and Korean, it’s basically like I was born in Italy. And then when I was six, I moved to France.
Are the languages that similar? Do you speak both fluently now?
I speak Korean fluently, 100 percent. I would say my Chinese is at 60 to 50 percent. Like I could order at a restaurant. I could probably speak to a woman at a club and I can get her number. But I don’t know if I could convince her to go get breakfast.
You can’t seal the deal! And then your family moved to the States at a certain point? Queens specifically?
We moved to New York in ’98. So after my pops’ situation in China, we thought about moving back to Korea, but there was also a time when Korea was going through an economic crisis. That’s where we’ll have the International Monetary Fund bail the country out. So we were like, “No, we’re not going there. Let’s figure out something in New York.” And we came to New York, and it was tough, man, because I think my image of America when I was growing up in East Asia was white picket fences that I saw in the Disney Channel with the Olsen twins. Then I came to Queens and I was like, “Where are the white people?” Everybody looked like me, Black and brown. A lot of us didn’t speak English. So we all had to navigate. And we were trying to figure out how do we mold our American identity? I don’t think any of us had an answer at the elementary school that I was going to called PS12 in Woodside. So that was pretty much the first few years of my life in the States.
Do you have a sense memory of or a feeling of out of place at that time? Or were you instantly at home? Or was it somewhere in the middle? I don’t know how your English was when you moved here, if you had any all?
I didn’t even know the alphabet when I moved here at 9. When I moved to China, when I was 6,I didn’t speak any Chinese. I felt out of place as a 6-year-old. And then literally three years later, just when I was getting the hang of it, I moved to a completely different place. And at least in China, I think because Korea was a neighboring country that at the time was economically doing better than China, a lot of the Chinese students in my class, they give me the pass. It’s like, “Yo, you got better crayons that we do. You got to buy your sneakers because you came from this capitalistic society.” And then are coming to New York? Oh, man, we all poor. Nobody gives a shit about who we are. I didn’t even get any pass. I had to rewire and readjust. I think subconsciously that built a thicker skin, if you will.
I was just going to ask that: Do you think you have a level of adaptability or an ability to slide into different cultures or conversations that maybe is a secret superpower?
I don’t know if it’s a superpower. But I do think that I have fluency or comfortability to be in different rooms with different types of people. And I think I would have to say some of that, if not a lot of that was molded because of me essentially moving to two different countries before I turned the age of 10.
You couldn’t be more New York, hearing you talk, what you’re interested in. You’re a big hip hop fan. Talk about your assimilation, I guess, process. You don’t want to lose your culture, which you certainly didn’t, or your heritage, you became Americanized?
If anything, I think I got New Yorker-ized. My parents, they still don’t speak fluent English. They get around. And money talks in America. “Here’s the card.” They get the pass, but I didn’t learn English from my folks. I’ve learned English from people in my community, older folks in my neighborhood. A lot of the influences like pop culture influences which at the time, during my upbringing was a lot of rap artists, a lot of hip hop musicians, these people that I idolized, and they were my heroes. So as a kid would do, you tend to emulate your heroes and you seek influence from people you look up to. So they might be the older guys in the neighborhood that had the fly North Face jackets and a Polos, Timberland boots, and they talk a certain type of way. “Okay, so I’m probably going to try to emulate them.” And it kind of reflected on the media that I was consuming, which is a lot of rap music. The film and TV that I was consuming also had characters of that trait.
And combine that with my group of friends, which were a combination of immigrants from a vast part of the world, I had like a Bahraini Jewish kid from Forrest Hills, Jamaican friends, Indian friends, Colombian friend, a lot of Colombian friends being in close proximity to Jackson Heights. So all of those influences just molded me into who I am. And that also meant that I have my first falafel from my Jewish friend. I had my first bandeja paisa through my Colombian friend, and I was like, “Wow, these Colombians, they eat a lot. They eat a lot of carbs.” Just having those reference points, I think, all throughout my adolescent years really just molded me into this person. I look like a hip hop record. Like you basically pulled all of these samples from different places and create a beat. That’s how I look at myself.
I love that. That’s better than “melting pot.” You’re a Prince Paul album.
That was a good reference.
We try. You got your start professionally in magazines like I did. You’ve done more interesting things. You’ve written and edited for Complex, Double XL, Vibe in not even your second language — your third language, which is impressive to me. I guess the question is, what’s the career path? And you co-produced a movie about hip hop with a then-unknown Awkwafina in it, documentary.
Throughout my teens, I thought that I was going to do something in the music industry, whether as an artist, producer, manager, executive, whatever it may be, I thought, “Okay, cool. I’m going to be in the music industry.” And then in my late teens, I think first year at Fordham University, I had the opportunity to intern at Complex, then a magazine with a blog. This was back in 2007. So before the death of print.
Eh. It’s on life support.
Okay. It’s still breathing. So I grew up reading a lot of magazines. I read the Rolling Stone, I read Double XL, Complex, Source. And I always imagined my name on the mastheads. “Man, it’d be so cool if I’m the music editor. It’d be so cool if I could review albums for a living. Like how cool would do that be?” So with that in the back of my head, I was able to get an internship at Complex with some great mentor. Shout out to my guy, Donnie Kwak. He’s currently the GM at Complex. He’s been in and out of that building for many years And I’m sure you’re aware, but it was a weird time. You enter this space where you thought that you were going to get paid $1 a word or $2 a word, and then you’re telling me that, okay, that went from 50 cents, 10 cents, to now you’re writing 1000-word articles for like $100 for some kind of website. I was like, “Where’s this going?”
Yeah, it was a wild two decades.
Yeah. So at the time that I graduated college, I had a small stint at an ad agency working on Red Bull as a client, and then had the opportunity to work as an editor for Double XL, which is a magazine that was owned and operated then by Harris Publications. So I was working there for a little less than two years. And I just saw, “Wow. This is not working out. I don’t see long term career trajectory in this.” And I was still in my 20s. So I thought, okay, I wanted to make a film. I want to have a brick and mortar business. These were all ideas that I had in my head. And I probably can’t be taking these chances when I’m in my 30s. The likelihood of me taking these chances are probably going to have more challenges. So why don’t why just start that now? That pretty much was the genesis and a catalyst for me to be broke for a few years trying to make an independent documentary called “Bad Rap” with my partner Selena Koroma, which, luckily, we premiered at Tribeca, we had a run on Netflix and is now on Hulu. Simultaneously I started working for a Brooklyn-based brick and mortar business called Alumni, locations in Crown Heights and Flatbush. I was able to convince my now business partner, Jean, then boss, to open a location in Flushing Queens. So I was able to get hands-on with that world, the retail business. So yeah, that was pretty much my 20s.
If I can ask what is your income breakdown? Is TikTok paying the bills? Or are you still doing agency work or the store?
Right now, I’m a full-time content creator. So the last, I would say 18 months, I’ve been getting paid from all the brand opportunities that I’ve had as a content creator.
I saw that nice “Succession” HBO TikTok, which was good as an ad could be.
Thank you so much. Yeah. So that’s what I’ve been doing full time and I don’t have any ad revenue coming directly from the platforms as in, TikTok’s ad system is wonky, to say the least. You might have a video that goes two million views and you get paid like $40. It’s not a sustainable business. So with YouTube is a different conversation. But YouTube is also a higher barrier of entry. So I haven’t been focusing too much on YouTube. YouTube has been very lean over TikTok and Instagram. I’ve been basically just having the opportunities with these brands, which I’ve been reinvesting into building Righteous Eats.
Yeah, and you guys do events, too?
Yes, we’re trying to get more into the IRL side of the business.
I’m such a fan of what you guys are doing. You’ve only been on TikTok since like you said, the pandemic, I wonder if you go back and look at your first videos, do you cringe a little and like, “I would have edited it differently? Or that’s too whatever?” How have you come to understand creating on the platform?
I realized that, sure, you’re gonna have receipts, you’re gonna have receipts of probably work that you might not be too proud of.
I’ve got my byline all over the place from a decade-plus ago that I just hate. I hate that they’re out there, but they’re out there.
I know. I’m the same way. Yeah, it does make me cringe. But the thing is, it’s basically like a basketball player, you got to take your shots, you got to get your touches there, your form is going to get better, your free throws are going to get better only if you put up more touches. And also, because there’s so much out there, I think we sometimes overthink, that people aren’t going to care. And even if they do care, there’s probably more people that’s gonna love you for what you’re doing then hate you for whatever, like hiccups that you have in the past.
That’s such a tough thing to internalize because I was so slow to get on TikTok for that reason. I was like, “I don’t want to look stupid.” I would try too hard, whatever, whatever. But you’re right, people don’t care. They care when it’s good. And they notice when it’s good, or they care if it’s like—
Horribly problematic. Yeah. But if you’re just mediocre, no one cares. No.
And also, when I see the way [kids] post, they are just leaving footprints everywhere. For the most random things. I think there’s going to be so much information out there that just the value of a video, it’s going to continuously become less and less priced.
Any single one video, right? It’s your batting average over time that matters. I know you’ve been spending some more time in Brooklyn recently. You’re not exclusively walking around Queens. Can you shout out a few places that you’ve been to in Brooklyn for our listeners?
Sure. I love Brooklyn, by the way. I consider myself a boroughbred Queens kid. But Brooklyn is incredible, man. Some of my favorite places, I would have to start it off with Brancaccio’s is on Fort Hamilton Parkway.
The best sandwiches. Shout out to Joe. Yes.
I would argue is actually one of the best sandwiches I’ve had in New York City.
Which one? For me, it’s the BLT with the broccoli rabe. Which one do you like?
Yeah. I love the one with the broccoli. I love the chicken cutlet special. I love the bresaola. I love Aunts & Uncles in Flatbush; it’s owned and operated by a friend called Mike Nicholas. And I’ve seen his journey. I’ve seen him ideating the concept to building it and now turning it into a community staple that is allotted love by so many different people, so love Aunts & Uncles. I love Dunya [Kebab House].
I went there right around the time when they opened, very good.
I know it has been obviously covered by the esteemed media publications such as Brooklyn Magazine as well as the likes of Pete Wells.
We beat Pete Wells there. We got there first, I will say that.
I’m shouting out a lot of spots in the West southern part of Brooklyn because I feel like a lot of things up north whether it’s Williamsburg, Dumbo Bushwick, I think they receive enough love. So I want to concentrate on these spots. And there’s so many other spots like in South Brooklyn that I love. Shashlik House. It’s essentially a grill restaurant. The gentleman who owns and operate it, he’s from Kyrgyzstan, there’s a growing Uzbek community here. So a lot of his staff are from Uzbekistan. It’s essentially a barbecue restaurant, in the sense that they will grill all these different types of skewers. I think one of my favorite dim sum restaurants I’ve recently come across — I know a lot of people like to go to Sunset Park — but there’s a spot in Bensonhurst that I recently visited.
There was a famous video that said, when you have three stars on Yelp, that’s when you know the restaurant is good, especially as is owned and operated by an immigrant or like a POC, is because you know that the service is subpar. And a lot of people look for service at some of these mom-and-pop immigrant owned and operated restaurants when that’s the last thing that the regulars from these eateries care about. They just want to care if the food is good. It’s called Golden City. I knew that it was gonna be good, because as soon as I stepped in, none of the menu was in English. It’s like, “Oh, OK. This is gonna be a challenge. It’s an uphill battle.”
What’s next for Righteous Eats?
We’re going to continuously build Righteous Eats, just continuously make good content. We’re very, myself and my business partner, Brian, we’re very both truly bullish on where this landscape and media is going.
I don’t know Brian. I’ve seen you guys post your own sort of conversations with each other about the media landscape. And he is super spot on and smart about media and the way it operates, and what’s under the hood and where it’s heading. I’ve been impressed with a lot of his insights.
We live in a place of transparency where, I think, why would I not share the fact that I have this super smart media executive that works with me to build this media property called Righteous Eats? Why would I now share that I got $150,000, from On Running, going into this year to continue my journey as a creator? I think all of that transparency is something that we want to continuously hone in on because I think, the previous model of somebody who is at the top of the hill, such as a celebrity, commanding what to buy and telling people what they’re up to, to a fan base, I think that model is going to continuously shift to this model of creators eating with a community where there’s a constant dialogue.
@righteouseats a lot goes into how we produce videos and decide what kind of content we’re going to post… here’s @brianlee.io and @jaekicho ♬ original sound – Righteous Eats
With that transparency, what I like about what you guys are doing is that it’s like the antithesis of gatekeeping, or being gatekeepers, because even in the creator community and ecosystem, people come up and they get big, and they have large followings. They’re still gate keeping their little position in that ecosystem, whereas you guys are very open about where you’re at, at any given moment.
It’s important to have a moat. I know a lot of tech guys, “What’s the moat?” It’s important to have a moat or niche or a specialty. By all means, I think any business should have an edge. But the scarcity mindset, I do think it’s antiquated. The pie is big enough for a lot of people to share and we just want to continuously hone in on building our community. I know “community” is a hot word. Every brand with a diversity and inclusion initiative has been throwing this word around but real community is somebody telling us, “Yo, you should check out this Bhutanese restaurant.” Then we go and highlight this Bhutanese restaurant. Real community is we work with The Street Vendor Project, a nonprofit that represents all the street vendors throughout New York City, and we bring equity by telling Samsung, “Hey, we’re going to do an event with y’all.” Cool, they give us $15 000 so we could hire street vendors and pay them their fair share, and have them come and serve food at your gorgeous flagship store and meatpacking which normally they probably would never have the opportunity to do that. That’s where we want to find the bridge and connector while building hopefully a successful business.
I love it. Is there anything you don’t eat or food or texture that you cannot abide by? Because you seem to be omnivorous.
I eat everything. And I don’t despise it. But I do feel a little uneasy about certain type of mushrooms. I had this childhood trauma of eating this specific type of mushroom and then I puked. And I think that caused some form of a minor PTSD in my head. And so I think the squiggly woody mushroom that has like this texture and taste in my mouth, it doesn’t really sit well with me. I can usually just complement it with a scoop of rice or some other supplement and just gobble it down. But I won’t be able to savor the taste.
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