It’s a Thursday night in September, and Eddie Huang is sprawled out in a private booth below Pizza Beach, a trendy, Neapolitan-style restaurant on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Dressed in a pair of baggy, drop-crotch jeans, and a black t-shirt with the words “Huang's World” scribbled across the back in pink, the chef’s outfit blends in with his surroundings. Celebrating the release of his new collaboration with Adidas—an all-black kitchen shoe that comes veiled in flame retardant suede—Huang has tricked out the restaurant to look like the backdrop from a Miami Vice re-run, throwing plastic lobsters and crabs under flamingo-colored lights. Guests sip glasses of frozen rosé and pick at rice bowls topped with chunks of real lobster as tracks from Cam’ron and Nas bump over the speakers.
Despite the kitchen’s reputation as a breading ground for mayhem, debauchery, and narcissism, rarely has a chef displayed more bravado in his personal style than Huang. The owner of BaoHaus on 14th Street in the East Village, the chef first shot into the public eye with the success of his autobiography, Fresh Off the Boat, in 2013. The ABC sitcom based on Huang’s book is set to premiere its third season next week, and the chef also hosts the popular travel show, Huang’s World, on Viceland. From the beginning, Huang has existed as one of the rare figure’s in food to earn the respect of renowned cooks like Anthony Bourdain, while simultaneously rocking a Dipset t-shirt and Jordans.
“The interesting thing with me, is I’ve never tried to be anything,” Huang tells me, hitting his fist into his palm for emphasis. “As a kid, I was always into sneakers. I remember the Adidas track suits. I’ve been wearing [them] my whole life. If you guys watch the show, or have just seen the evolution of the style, I’ve always been streetwear. Cooking, too. It’s like I never have to think about it.”
Over the years, celebrity chefs have often sought to brand themselves through personal style. Today, Mario Batali is perhaps more synonymous with orange Crocks and fleece vests than Pó or Eataly, and few would dare to envision Guy Fieri without his goatee and bleach-blond spikes. There are, too, popular chefs like Marcus Samuelsson, David Myers, Scott Conant, and Laurent Gras who take fashion seriously—wearing tailored chef’s jackets and Prada shoes in the kitchen—but still, no one is looking to the Food Network to find the pulse of streetwear. Instead, they look to Huang.
Despite the criticism the chef has received in recent years (In 2013, the New York Times famously dubbed him a "walking mixtape of postmodern cultural appropriation."), Huang oscillates more naturally between the worlds of food and fashion than almost anybody.
"With the show, we just brought together my entire lifestyle—all of my interests and all of the things that inspire me—and it was kind of effortless," he explains.
Joined by his friend and collaborator, Wilkinson Sejour (a.k.a. Chef Creole), First We Feast asked Huang to critique some of the culinary world’s most iconic fits and food-inspired sneakers. From Fieri’s Duck Dynasty-style blazer, to his own Jodeci-cosigned overalls, Huang tore apart the myth of the celebrity chef-turned-fashion symbol.