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Interview with Farm to Chopsticks Awardee Jessica Wang

At Farm to Chopsticks on August 10th, we are recognizing three AMAZING people who help make our work possible. Meet Jessica Wang!

Jess Wang is a Los Angeles based fermentation enthusiast and local food advocate. In early 2014, while working in the pastry department at State Bird Provisions in San Francisco, Ms. Wang was diagnosed with prediabetes and has since sought a more intentional lifestyle for well-being and seeks to promote wellness in her community. Along the way, she picked up dealing vintage kitchen ware and found work as a recipe tester for publications such as luckypeach.com. These days, she divides her time in Los Angeles between Filipino inspired restaurant, LASA; PIQUENIQUE, a seasonal hand pie pop up; and Picklé, a fermented pickle project. Ms. Wang volunteers with  Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement (APIFM), a nonprofit organization that brings sustainably grown produce from Asian family farms to LA neighborhoods through Roots Community Supported Agriculture. Her work through APIFM includes developing recipes using seasonal produce and leading cooking workshops, with an emphasis on making probiotic foods more accessible.

Here’s our interview with Jess!

How did you first get involved with APIOPA/Forward Movement? 

Jess picking up her CSA bag from us in Monterey Park over 4 years ago! 

I was checking out the Monterey Park Farmers Market in the summer of 2013 where Forward Movement (APIOPA at the time) had an info booth, and I learned about the Roots CSA program. I became a subscriber that summer. I moved away that fall, then moved back to LA a year later, and got involved as a volunteer in the Spring of 2015.

What keeps you involved with a rag-tag group of folks like us?

I am drawn to APIFM’s mission to bring healthy and sustainable change to our community through grassroots organizing. Since I learned I have blood sugar issues, I began pursuing a healthier lifestyle and feel compelled to share my experience with others who can benefit from my findings. Investing in relationships is something I have valued since I was young, and as an adult I realize the power we have when we combine our diverse resources to overcome challenges and accomplish good. I find fulfillment in connecting people, and as someone working in the food industry, I can offer to create connections between Roots CSA and my personal and professional networks within the LA food world. I am more than happy to share my discoveries in working with vegetables, from cooking to fermenting, so when APIFM invited me to develop recipes and teach workshops, we found that I could be helpful in that area as well.

In the time I’ve known you, you have always had a knack for pickling! What got you into pickling? 

Fermented long bean pickle from a recipe book Jess Wang partnered with us on (Nurturing Our Roots: An Asian American Guide to Summer Cooking)

Loving to eat pickles! I have had a thing for acid since I was a kid. The brightness of the flavor and the crisp juiciness of the pickles of my childhood, between dill pickles, napa cabbage kimchi, and chinese peppercorn cabbage pickle, were crazy addictive. I am still crazy about all those wonderful things about pickles, so learning about how to avoid food waste through preservation and the probiotic benefits of fermented pickles became bonuses as an adult. Seeing my mom make kimchi at home when I was young left me with an empowering impression, and when my dear friend Rachel Khong shared a kimchi recipe with me later in life, I got into fermentation!

What’s Pique-nique? What inspired you to start it? How can we support?! 

Pique-nique is a pop-up hand pie project I started as a bake sale fundraiser to get me closer to my dream of starting up Picklé, a seasonal pickle company. The project is a bridge between my past as a pastry chef and the future as a pickle professional. You can support by purchasing hand pies at LASA, where we are offering coconut empanadas on the lunch menu, and by staying tuned on our upcoming project with SPLA Coffee, which is also in Chinatown. Following @piquenique_la on Instagram is a good place to start.

Delicious coconut empanada anyone?

What’s your favorite Roots CSA veggie item? Why? 

Gailan! My body craves its goodness, and it offers two very nice textures between the leaves and the stems. Being fed blanched gailan with oyster sauce as a kid and getting as much stem as possible is where our love affair began. Learning how to cook and then ferment fine specimens has deepened my love for this beautiful brassica.

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