We had the good fortune of connecting with Priscilla Chong and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Priscilla, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
The quick answer is: I want people to get excited about food and indulge in my creations!
But here’s the full story. As a graphic designer, I’ve always struggled with my intentions as a creative. I ask myself questions often, like why am I doing this? What is this for? Who is this for? And does that serve my goals for my work? Most of the time, the answer doesn’t even matter, I just have to do the job. I’m so grateful to get to work as a graphic designer, but unfortunately, this job doesn’t always serve me. So while my love and practice for graphic design has grown over the years, so has my love for food, cooking, and my culture.
I didn’t realize until very recently that people did not have the same relationship with food that I do. My family has always sat at the dinner table every evening together, like a ritual, ever since I can remember. My parents will cook together and experiment, and we always discuss the food. Now that my siblings and I are older, we all take turns to experiment in the kitchen, trying ingredients and techniques we’ve learned from all over. Until my college years, I thought that everyone did this.
Because I spent so much time at home during the pandemic, I would post about my food and cooking adventures a lot. In response to that, so many people told me I was helping them change the way they feel about food and that I was getting them excited to try new dishes and restaurants. So then what started to drive me wasn’t just my own love for food but the chance to inspire that love in others.
During the holidays, my sister and I decided to make homemade cookie boxes for our loved ones. We churned out over 2,000 cookies to fill 75 boxes for our loved ones this past December. People started DM’ing me on Instagram (@shehungry) asking if they could purchase a box! So with Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year landing around the same time this year, I came up with the concept of Valentine’s sweets inspired by my Asian culture to celebrate both holidays. I made classic sweets like rice krispy treats but shaped them into hearts and flavored them with strawberry to make them pink. I also made macarons with a salted egg yolk ganache, inspired by some of my favorite Asian dishes! I really enjoyed the challenge of pairing classic Asian flavors, like Thai tea and matcha, with popular Western treats, like madeleines and blondies. We did pre-orders on Instagram and sold 60 boxes within the first hour. It was madness!
I had the amazing support of my siblings, Annika and Chris Chong, who helped me with baking and taste testing, as well as one of my best friends, Nathalie Schrans, who was our copywriter and social strategist. Because I have this team, we were able to develop menus we’re excited about, which gave me a place to exercise my graphic design muscles to design posters, menus, social assets, and even stickers! We had so much fun and success with the first drop that we did another one in April, inspired by spring with lots of floral flavors. My dear friend Alison Hochi (@hochimochi) contributed some fun illustrations of our star ingredients, like pandan leaves and lavender For our third drop for Mother’s Day, we sold citrus olive oil mascarpone cakes and collaborated with my talented friend, Kimberly Au, to do floral arrangements. We’re currently planning our next drop for this summer 🙂
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My creations come in all shapes and forms! Sometimes I’m designing a book to indulge in a topic that I’m fascinated by, sometimes I’m developing a new recipe. And other times, it’s as simple as sharing my favorite place to eat. What drives all of this is my intense love for people. My love for people is the root of why I do anything. I am so amazed by how different we are, and yet at our core we are often the same. I am captivated by the way we meet new people and change one another, whether we leave or stay in each other’s lives. And I think that’s why being a creative is so fulfilling. When I am creating things, whether it’s a poster or a cookie, that will affect you. It will inspire you, or teach you what you don’t like, or make you feel or think. I feel like as long as I stay amazed by people and remain excited to connect and communicate, I can continue making all kinds of creative projects forever.
But I still feel like I have a long way to go. I have so many dreams and goals. I want to work in fashion, with galleries, or in music with fellow creatives who have changed my life. But I also have the goal of opening a restaurant one day so I can make cooking and feeding people part of my everyday life. So I guess I still have a lot of challenges I’m excited to overcome, and I still have a lot of lessons to learn. A lesson I’m learning every day is to “just be you, we deserve a life. Whether big or small, you’re just doing you,” which are lyrics from one of my favorite songs, “Paradise,” by BTS.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Oh my gosh this is so hard, LA has so much to offer!
I grew up in Temple City, in the heart of the San Gabriel Valley, and it has some of the best Asian food in North America. I would definitely bring them to Kang Kang Food Court to get their iconic sheng jian bao (the love child of a steamed bun and a xiao long bao). A dish I grew up eating is Hainan chicken rice from Savoy, which also has an incredible beef curry stew that I always think about! My favorite noodle spot, Lao Xi’er Noodle House, is also nearby, and I am obsessed with the pork fried dumplings from One One Dumplings. Across the street from that is a great cafe called BOPOMOFO that embodies my upbringing as an Asian American; they serve up delicious Asian snacks and dishes with a contemporary Californian twist. Then we’d go to Jin Tea or Chi Cha San Chen for some high-quality boba milk tea. My go-to boba order is Oolong Milk Tea, with 50% sugar and boba.
If I were to venture out a little further into Los Angeles, my favorite place for breakfast right now is Courage Bagels, which has the best bagels ever! They do Montreal-style bagels made with the most love and care. If we want to get proper brunch, I’d go to Republique for the best pastries and heart-warming dishes. Then we’d get a nice pour-over coffee at Verve or Go Get Em Tiger. We would eat our way through the city, stopping in Koreatown for some chicken at KyoChon or KBBQ at either Quarters or Ahgasshi Gopchang. Some of my favorite Japanese spots are Sushi Gen, which has incredible sushi for an incredible price, or Marugame Monzo for the best udon experience ever.
Of course we’re in SoCal, where Mexican food is off the charts… Some of my favorite spots are Avenue 26 Tacos, Leo’s Taco Truck, El Chato Taco Truck, or Tacos 1986. And I can’t forget about amazing Thai spots like Night + Market or Luv2Eat Thai Bistro! I could go on forever.
If you want to try LA-style Italian, you must get a table at Jon and Vinny’s. Some other slightly more upscale spots that need a reservation, but are totally worth every penny, are Bestia, Kato, Bavel, all of which offer some life-changing dining experiences! There are also lots of people selling food from their home just like me: I would pick up a pizza from @quartersheets or a focaccia sandwich or lasagna from @jatakyesplease, and then some pastries from @pavebakery. I actually have a map of all my favorite and most memorable spots here:
LA is blessed with a lot more than just food. I would definitely bring my friends to the beach— my go-to is Will Rogers State Beach because you get the view of the Santa Monica Pier without getting stuck in the crowds. We also have beautiful parks like Lacy Park and the Los Angeles State Historic Park that are great for a casual picnic. We could browse all the cool shops at ROW DTLA or hit up my favorite bar, the Black Cat, after eating our way through Silver Lake. (If you can’t tell, I’m obsessed with food.)
We have great museums like LACMA, MOCA, and The Broad, and other cool galleries like Hauser & Wirth, Gagosian, and HVW8 that are always inspiring me! Some of my favorite book stores are Hennesy and Ingall, Arcana, and ARTBOOK @ Hauser & Wirth. We also have some amazing thrift shops. Our Goodwills are top notch, but there are also a lot of curated secondhand shops like The Left Bank in Frogtown or Squaresville in Los Feliz, which are nearby a lot of other fun shops.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have so many people in my life that have helped me get to where I am. My family, especially my parents, have always been supportive of what I want to do and try. They are also the people who taught me to love food and to stay creative. I also owe so much thanks to all the other communities who have raised me. I think I’ve just been really lucky to be surrounded by genuinely wonderful, creative, and supportive people. My teachers at ArtCenter were so patient, kind, and ready to help me grow, while my peers that I’ve learned with at school, or worked within the industry, have been great mentors and collaborators. These relationships and mentorships are priceless to me. You know who you are. Another group that always inspires and moves me is BTS. They remind me that I can do anything and that I don’t have to be the best at something to do it. Their message gives me the courage to be imperfect.
Other: follow to order our next drop @order_shehungry graphid design account: @priscillapchong