It was one of those weeknight evenings when I finished everything I needed to do for the day and was finally able to sit down with my husband, Nate, and our pups in our Brooklyn home.

I felt bad that I hadn’t been checking my Instagram messages from fans, friends, and family so before I realized it I was browsing through my Instagram feed and stumbled upon an interesting post that caught my eyes.

At the beginning it was the bright turquoise decor that picked my interest and soon after, I realized there were more stories to the post than I was able to fathom so I immediately tagged Nate and said “Let’s go check-out this restaurant!”. And that’s how Arielle, the co-owner of Lucky Lee’s, and I came to know about each other and, ultimately, to collaborate.

First, the elephant-in-the-room: I don’t want to gloss over the fact that some readers might know Haspel from something else: the backlash she and her restaurant suffered from the Chinese American community, after some marketing tactics she now admits were ill-considered and insensitive.

I approached our first conversation in the spirit of discovery – we clearly shared a passion for Asian-inspired food, and for healthy, gluten-free cooking, but was Haspel, as some claimed, a cultural appropriator, with no respect for the food traditions she was drawing from?

After multiple conversations with her, I now firmly believe she’s not.

For starters, Haspel expressed to me many times (including in our complete Instagram live at the bottom of this article) her regret for her word choice in some of those early marketing messages. She also espouses a sincere lifelong love of Chinese and Asian cuisine. Her interest in gluten free cooking began as a result of an auto-immune disease.

I won’t mince words that some of Haspel’s original advertising was culturally insensitive.

But I also believe intent is important, and that people with sincere intent deserve a fair hearing.

In our multiple meetings, Haspel’s words and actions not only convinced me that she’s deeply sorry for her words, but that her intent is to respect and promote the foods she grew up loving, while offering gluten free versions.

During our conversation, we realized we came from very different cultural backgrounds – she grew up in a Jewish/American household in New York and I grew up with a Chinese family in Taiwan. I was fascinated by what motivated her to open a gluten, wheat, corn, and soy-free Chinese-American restaurant because that’s so close to what I do, and try to provide my readers/viewers.

We chatted about our aligned missions in the health/food niche and our common love for Chinese and Chinese/American cuisines. By the end of our conversation, it felt so natural for us to collaborate.

What better way to serve our audiences by feeding them with the food we so love – so Arielle and I decided to make one of the most popular recipes – Paleo Mongolian Beef – from my blog and my Cookbook Asian Paleo, available in her restaurant and for online delivery (my recipe with Lucky Lee’s chefs on assembly duty).

In celebration of our collaboration, we will also be hosting a meet-and-greet/cookbook signing event on Thursday, July 11th at 1PM at Lucky Lee’s.

The space is limited so please RSVP here for more information.

I Heart Umami fans and friends, join us for this amazing celebration. We’d love to see you!

ChihYu Smith I Heart Umami Asian Paleo Book Signing Event

Also checkout our Instagram Live Q&A and collaboration announcement:


ChihYu Smith Asian Paleo I Heart Umami Cookbook Author