Chef Chat: Jake Lau of Hao Bao

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Get to know Jake Lau of award-winning food truck, Hao Bao.

How would you describe Hao Bao cuisine? Hao Bao specializes in Chinese soul food. Simple, delicious, authentic Chinese comfort food.

What are some easy ways that at-home chefs can infuse Chinese ingredients into their cooking repertoire? Employ what has been dubbed the “The Holy Trinity” of Chinese cooking—fresh garlic, fresh ginger and spring onions—into everything. I recommend using this combination with steamed sea bass or a vegetarian steamed Chinese spinach dish.

What inspired you to start a food truck? My mom took the family on a month-long trip through China in 1998. I was 15 years old. The trip was mind blowing. I was exposed for the first time to “Chinese street food.” The food was incredibly fresh, clean, and entirely steeped in tradition with some recipes dating back thousands of years. I fell in love with it all. I recognized during that trip that all of America was missing out–that some how, some way, most only knew the grease-laden, MSG-riddled, corn syrupy lowest common denominator of Americanized Chinese food. You most likely won’t ever find “orange chicken” or “General Whoever’s Chicken” in rural China since it only exists here. In America. So I figured there was a huge need to redefine Chinese food in America. Naturally, I chose to start with one of Chinese food’s culinary staples: The Dumpling. Delicate, succulent, and bursting with flavor, dumplings serve as the perfect vehicle by which to introduce to the masses how an authentic Chinese dumpling should taste.

Temps can reach 140 degrees on a food truck during the summer. How do you deal with the heat? Hope, emotional fortitude and the thought of “this too shall pass.” In all sincerity, what sustains Hao Bao as a brand, a team and as a gourmet food truck are our incredible customers. I’m O.K. with this next bit sounding cheesy, but the unbelievable love, support, partnerships and raw help that our customers have extended to us since our inception has been incredible. Temps have been known to breach 140 on board a food truck in the summer with all the stoves firing, but connecting with the family, young couple, or working professional who tries our dumplings for the first time is a powerful experience. We watch as their comprehension of all that used to be “Chinese food” is redefined in front of our eyes. We have had countless customers exclaim prior to ordering “This is the first time I’ve ever tried dumplings!” And while this is all quite blasphemous to us, we are thrilled, honored, and humbled to be their first. Oh, the Organic Mint Green Iced Tea that we brew fresh each morning is also another beautifully refreshing way we keep cool on board the truck. I’d highly recommend you give it a try too.

What do you love most about what you do? The high adventure. Every single day is different in the most exhilarating, frustrating and rewarding ways. Being a total adrenaline junkie, I often get that same high I felt when I leaned out and looked down over the ledge of the plank before leaping off tethered only by a bungee cord into the Nevis Canyon in New Zealand in the moments we roll up in The Bao Mobile to a huge outdoor concert, when we see a line of 100 people outside our window, or when a network of breweries in Denver calls my cell one evening requesting that we bring the truck up for a summer to do a “Tour de Breweries Tour.” That’s high adventure. And I dig it. Hao Bao has taught me more in the brief few months since we launched than the last eight years of my 20’s. Life’s lessons seem delivered in highly concentrated form as themes of life, people, love, grit, determination, hope, compassion, and fulfillment hit me on the daily and in abundance. Entrepreneurship has holistically changed the way I look at life, professionally altered my ambitions (I’m busy starting my third company), and personally brought out the very best from within me and those around me.

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