Food & Drink

FOOD: It Isn’t Just About Kanye

by Erik Bruner-Yang

 The following is part of a series of monthly posts with Chef Erik Bruner-Yang.

Every prepubescent teenager has had a celebrity they wished they could be or look like.  For me, it was Brandon Boyd of Incubus. I thought he epitomized rock ‘n’ roll and artistic freedom. Every girl wanted him and every boy wanted to be him.  I wish I could retract and say I stopped liking Incubus after their first major label release S.C.I.E.N.C.E., but let’s be real, they had a lot of pretty great songs scattered throughout their next twenty years as a band. Playing music and making music used to be a huge part of my life. Now it only involves making restaurant playlists and playing Paramore’s Ain’t it Fun on repeat while I do my seven-minute workout before bed.

The whole point is that no matter where one is in one’s life or what they are doing. we are all going to be susceptible to some sort of envy. It’s hard to believe that anyone this year has had a better year than Adam Levine, but here in our small community of Washington D.C., the person that has closed out 2013 on top is definitely chef/owner Aaron Silverman of Rose’s Luxury.  This last year has felt like the year where you would say, “Let’s root for the good guys” and they were able to make a mark.  So, shoutouts to Chef Aaron Silverman, Chef Seng Luangrath (Bankgok Golden), Sebastian Zutant (Red Hen), Victor Albisu (Taco Bamba/Del Campo), Spike Gjerde (Tokiberry), and Nicolas Jammet (Sweetgreen).

Comedy Central's Primetime Emmy Awards Party

Here are some of my favorite moments of the year.  This doesn’t mean they are or aren’t the best but I am just happy that these moments, meals, movies, and songs happened in my life.

1.    Chef Seng Luangrath (Bankgok Golden) Pop-Up at Toki Underground
I feel so blessed to know such an amazing and humble person.  Can’t even go to her damn restaurant because it is now so popular, plus I don’t want her to see me not working cause she makes me feel lazy.

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[Photo credit: @TokiUnderground Instagram]

2.    Two glasses of orange wine and Salt Cod Brandade at Red Hen
Sebastian Zutant is the nicest guy in the whole world. He deserves every ounce of success. I could listen to him talk about orange wine all day despite the fact I have zero interest in the history or lineage of anything alcohol related.

3.    Discovering Taco Bamba/Del Campo
I have a great employee and friend, Howard Chang, who has been my Han Solo since day one. A few months ago I was able to take Howard and Samandar Khelghati (Maketto’s Pop-Up General Manager) out to dinner to say thank you for all their hard work and being a part of my crazy vision for the world. Del Campo was perfect that day and I’ll go to Taco Bamba every time I hit Tyson’s Corner. That fried tripe taco is the number #1 jam.

4.    Dinner with Spike Gjerde at the Nomad
Dinner the night after the James Beard Award Ceremony. I think everyone working at the Nomad that night were still nursing the hangovers but that didn’t put a damper on a night of good friends having a good time.  Thanks for being a great mentor and friend. You deserve the James Beard Foundation award more than anyone on the East Coast.


 [Photo Credit: Jessica Chou, Sweetlife Festival 2013]

5.    McDonald’s on my wedding night
Didn’t get to eat anything on my wedding day until after it all ended except for the McDonald’s double cheeseburger across the street from our wedding venue. You can always count on McDonald’s.  Been my go to my whole life and it pulled through for me on the best day of my life.

6.    Sweetgreen
Expansion the right way gets you a $22 million dollar pay day. Best guys. Best product. Thank you for including us in the last two Sweetlife Festivals and thanks for the all the freebies you have sent my way.

7.    Best Movie: Tie between Pacific Rim/Broken Circle Breakdown
Both movies made me cry.

8. Best Song:  Tie between Paramore : Ain’t it Fun/Juicy J : So Much Money/ Lady Gaga : Applause.
It’s great to see commercial pop stars shed the bullshit around them, drop the dead weights holding them back, and still proving they got some music to write.

9.    Dismemberment Plan
Not everyone loved the new album but who cares. You guys should be playing music together, you guys should be touring, you guys will always be my favorite band of all time, and I can’t wait for more albums.

10. Worst Album: Tie between Kanye West : Yeezus/Arcade Fire : Reflektor
This is tough for me because I would never want to be named worst anything and I don’t want to ever be critical of anyone trying to do anything that means something to them. Kanye is crazy and he is crazy to think he reinvented hip-hop with this album. Underground hip-hop artists having been putting out albums that sound like Yeezus for the last decade. I probably would have liked the Arcade Fire album if it wasn’t for Chris Richards’s review of the album. But now every time I hear any song off of Reflektor I can hear only Chris Richard’s poignant review of the album in my head.

11. 2014 will be the year of leaving everything open ended….



About Erik Bruner-Yang
Executive Chef and Owner, Toki Underground

In January of 2011, chef and owner Erik Bruner-Yang opened the acclaimed Toki Underground in Washington, D.C. In the first years of its opening, Toki Underground has been nationally and locally recognized for its creative menu featuring hybrid Taiwanese style ramen, authentic Taiwanese dumplings, and Asian-themed cocktails. As the winner of the 2012 DC “Restaurant of the Year” and 2011 “So Hot Right Now” Eater Awards, Toki Underground continues to receive rave reviews from The Washington Post, Washington City Paper, the Cooking Channel’s “Unique Eats”, and many more. Chef Yang’s consulting restaurant work for Kushi Izakaya and Sushi landed the 5th and K NW eatery as a 2011 James Beard Foundation Award semi-finalist for Best New Restaurant, Mid-Atlantic. Chef Erik Bruner-Yang, who is a resident of H Street, plans to expand his local footprint and commitment to the neighborhood with a new establishment named Maketto that will transport the Asian night market experience, energy and cuisine to Washington, D.C.