Writer Eddie Huang ‘04 spoke to students on remaining truthful to one’s roots and never sacrificing creativity for one’s career.
“What’s up motherfuckers!” yells Eddie Huang ‘04 as he rushes into the Galloway Room on March 19 for what was supposed to be a reading of his memoir Fresh Off the Boat. “I know I’m supposed to read from my book, but I don’t like to do what everyone does, so I’m just going to take questions from the audience,” he announced after a heartfelt introduction from English Professor Maurice O’Sullivan.
It’s obvious from the first few seconds of Huang’s entrance that he is a speaker that is unlike anything Rollins has experienced before. Huang may be one of the most eccentric of Rollins’ alumni but he is also arguably one of Rollins’ greatest success stories. He grew up in the local Orlando area and was one of the few Asian-American families in his neighborhood. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in English at Rollins he went on to law school, and from there began an impressive career writing for Eater.com, The New York Observer, and Grantland.com. Not stopping there, Huang created his own popular blog, “Fresh Off the Boat” (thepopchef.blogspot.com), co-hosted episodes of Anthony Bourdain’s The Layover, hosts “Fresh Off the Boat” for VICE TV, started an acclaimed restaurant with his brother in the Lower East Side of New York City, and his memoir has been hailed by O Magazine and USA Today.
Huang is the kind of voice students crave to hear: frank, uncensored, and hilarious.
Despite his success, Huang remains very faithful to his roots and has never sacrificed his individuality and personality for his career. He shared with the audience, which included his mother, brother, and childhood friends, that he used to wear outrageous suits when he worked at a law firm and that his determination to retain creative freedom of his show made it difficult to find a proper network, although he eventually found satisfaction working with VICE TV.
During his monologue, prior to answering questions, he stressed the importance of the liberal arts education he developed at Rollins and cautioned against wavering from its foundations. “I’ve been an executive producer, writer, screenwriter, lawyer, comedian, etc.,” says Huang. “I could not have predicted these things in college, but the liberal arts foundation helped me in all these careers. You should not be defined by your profession; you cannot escape the essential questions. Educate the soul, know thyself.”
In the Q&A, Huang was asked about the rather homogenous culture at Rollins and how he felt being a racial minority. Huang answered that growing up, he really identified with the African-American culture and is an avid hip-hop fan. He encourages Rollins to continue their efforts to increase diversity on campus. On a larger scale, he believes that America still has strong racial prejudice issues. “You have to make the world you want to see,” he says.
Another audience member asked Huang if he knew about the situation two years ago where thirty people were arrested for giving food to the homeless in Orlando. “We have enough food to feed the world,” Huang answered. He then went on to say that he recently watched Food Inc. and fears the health risks associated with our country’s food. “I believe in the power of the individual and commerce. We have power with our money. If you support gay rights, do not buy Chick-fil-a and do not buy McDonald’s, which has single-handedly destroyed the food industry.”
At the end of his “reading,” the audience gave him an enthusiastic round of applause. Huang is the kind of voice students crave to hear: frank, uncensored, and hilarious. In our climate of political correctness and corruption, success stories like Huang’s motivate current students to never accept the status quo.