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Interview with Farm to Chopsticks Awardee Carol Lee

At Farm to Chopsticks on August 10th, we are recognizing three AMAZING people who help make our work possible. One of those is Carol Lee!

Carol Lee has devoted her entire professional career to the nonprofit and philanthropic sectors, and is currently a member of the grants management team at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. In her free time, she manages the Circle of Change, a giving circle that supports Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations working to make a positive change within AAPI communities located in the Los Angeles, Orange County or Inland Empire areas. Carol is a native Angeleno who cherishes all the diversity and good food that LA has to offer. She also enjoys Fitbit challenges, the occasional half-marathon, and overanalyzing her favorite TV shows and movies.

Here’s a fun interview we had with Carol:

How did you first get connected with Forward Movement (then APIOPA)?

I first learned about APIOPA/Forward Movement through a mutual friend, Sissy Trinh.  She told me about your CSA program and I ended up signing up.  That was I think 5 years ago?

It’s been quite a few years! What keeps you involved with this scrappy nonprofit? 

The CSA program was great. My mom certainly appreciated the freshness of the vegetables. By the time the Historic Filipinotown location was discontinued, my involvement changed. I had nominated APIOPA for funding through my giving circle for several years and saw the organization’s growth over time.  I had made new friends and now I look forward to the monthly hikes.

Carol rocking it on local public radio interview with KPCC

As a former Roots Community Supported Agriculture subscriber, can you share what your experience was like with this program? Why should someone consider joining the CSA? 

I really liked the program when I was a subscriber for several seasons. At the time, I lived with my mother so the vegetables were primarily for her use, but I got to enjoy the fruits of her labor! She would always remark that she could tell the difference between the CSA vegetables and the ones she bought at Asian markets. She looked forward to the Sunday pickups. The CSA was also a good way to be introduced to unfamiliar vegetables and APIOPA/Forward Movement would provide tips on ways to cook them. Lastly, I felt good about supporting Asian farmers. I would still be a subscriber now if it were more convenient with my schedule but that hasn’t worked out yet.

It’s one thing to have Asian produce in your fridge, but it’s another thing to figure out what to do with it. What was your favorite item to cook with in the CSA bags you received, and what’s a favorite Carol Lee recipe you can share with us? 

Aside from tips and recipes provided by Forward Movement, these days I rely on the internet for recipes. My mom took care of preparing the vegetables back when I subscribed to the CSA, but I always loved the OG favorites, gai lan and bok choy. Since moving out on my own for the past year, I’ve been slowly learning to cook. I didn’t grow up learning to cook with my mom so I don’t know her recipes. I try to cook with some Asian produce every now and then and am very much a novice with Asian spices and sauces so there’s no favorite Carol Lee recipe yet!

People may know that you walk the walk in community work, through the amazing work you do at Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the AAPI Circle of Change. BUT, they may not know that you are a beast when it comes to Fitbit steps, easily averaging over 100k steps per week. What’s your secret?

Carol gets her steps in at Chinatown Fit Club, where senior dogs Tucker and Tubs motivate many to get their walk on. 

Ha, on good weeks I average more than 100k steps a week, but generally it’s a bit less. For 2017, I set a fitness goal for myself of getting 5 million Fitbit steps, roughly a million more than I had in 2016. The secret for me was setting a goal that I wouldn’t talk myself out of, but one that would still require me to stretch. Rather than rely on big gains over weekends, I focused this year on developing a more consistent, daily routine. I shoot for at least 13,000 steps a day. I make sure to move around a lot at work during the day and the rest of my steps come from regular evening walks.

“I love competition! I track my steps through Fitbit of course, but I also maintain an Excel spreadsheet to help me stay on top of my benchmarks.”

How do you stay motivated? 

I have daily and monthly benchmarks to keep me on track. We have an on-going Fitbit challenge through work which helps with the motivation. I love competition! I track my steps through Fitbit of course, but I also maintain an Excel spreadsheet to help me stay on top of my benchmarks. In the beginning I had to “force” myself to keep up with my evening walks. I’d do things like leave my car parked outside of my garage, forcing me to go back out to move my car which would lead me to drive to my favorite walking destination, the Rose Bowl.

Carol, it’s also no secret that you are a foodie champion aka Yelp Elite. My challenge to you…give me your go-to place (and items to order) for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (3 total recommendations) with the following requirements: 

  • Must be Asian American owned
  • Has healthy options
  • Generally affordable

Osawa in Pasadena *drool*

I try to make breakfast at home these days. If I do go out, it’s usually a breakfast burrito or a more mainstream brunch. Does Eggslut count? It’s Filipino-owned and affordable, but maybe lacking in the “healthy”. The place I recommend most often to people is Osawa in Pasadena. It’s Asian-owned, maybe not Asian-American owned. They recently opened a more casual delicatessen selling rice bowls and bento boxes.

Comments(2)

  1. REPLY
    Jessica Wang says

    Looking forward to meeting you in person! Thank you for the work you do and for inspiring fitness goals.

    • REPLY
      Carol Lee says

      Looking forward to meeting YOU Jessica. #cookinggoals

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