It struck me the other night that despite planning for this trip for months, assembling a crack team of chefs (Gerry and Jhonny), searching for local ingredients, setting up kitchens, designing food trucks and talking endlessly about flour specifications, I have never had a real bao!
The fact that I have never tasted an authentic, fresh, handmade bao even after obsessing over every detail of its production for months may seem odd, but in fact, that is exactly why I am so excited about trying to bring them to America. If successful, we will be introducing a type of food that has never been sold on a large scale outside of China – and has rarely been sold anywhere at such a high quality standard.
Today I have been packing bags with clothes and gifts for when I arrive and double checking that we have all the right documents to make the long trip from Boston to Shanghai without incident. However, my thoughts have slipped past what I am packing today, and are instead settled on what we will be bringing back home. New experiences and sights will happen every day as we move around Shanghai and Hangzhou, and I can’t wait to share those with my colleagues at Tom’s BaoBao, my friends and family. But I think there is something even more essential to our mission over the next several weeks (and months). We are going to be bringing back an idea. This idea could – I hope – change the way that Americans view Chinese cuisine and ‘fast’ food. Today in the U.S. both of those terms are associated with generic conceptions of food that is made by the numbers for an indiscriminate audience that wants to know exactly what they are getting ahead of time. That is not us, that is not bao. I want the concepts we bring back with us to surprise people, to make them think of Chinese food in America as a healthy choice, and of fast food as an expression of precision and care instead of just convenience.
I think I speak for my whole team when I say that we can’t wait to get to China, and we can’t wait to show you all what we learn.
We will be flying from Logan airport tomorrow afternoon and will arrive in China 16 hours later. Shortly after we will have our first bao – stay tuned to hear what we think of it!