NEW YORK (AP) — The Year of the Goat won't arrive until Feb. 19, but Eddie Huang celebrated early.
On Monday night, he hosted a Chinese New Year bash for 30 or so lucky invitees at a favorite Brooklyn restaurant, where in full view in the open kitchen he set to work to prepare a six-course feast.
Huang, of course, is an author, chef, restaurateur and Vice media personality as well as the inspiration for the new ABC comedy, "Fresh Off the Boat."
What does he put as his profession on his IRS form? "Human panda," he said. "I look like a panda and I look like a human. So far the IRS isn't questioning it."
His menu included lion's head chicken soup (accompanied by a traditional Chinese lion dance), Hainan lobster salad and, eventually, a dual main course: chili miso braised fish and Szechuan roasted black garlic chicken, all washed down by copious pours of a cocktail called the Red Ram, whose prime ingredient, Hennessy V.S.O.P Privilege cognac, was sponsoring the event. The night concluded with egg tarts.
Good eats! But don't pin down Huang as a celebrity chef.
"I never know where each day is gonna lead me," he said, digging into a heaping plate of his own as guests dispersed. "I always make sure to be productive, but I allow the spirit to carry me.
"The thing I love most is writing. I started out as a kid telling jokes. Then I realized the really great writers use humor to say something. I've been trying to get better and better at it ever since.
"I love food," he went on. "But people say, 'When you gonna open a new restaurant?' I'm happy just having my one restaurant (Baohaus, in lower Manhattan). I cook a lot at home. I do special events. And once a year I come out and do Chinese New Year. I kill that (thing) and I love it."
These days, much of his attention is devoted to "Fresh Off the Boat," which is inspired by his own memoir about growing up in Orlando, Florida, the son of Taiwanese immigrants.
Never reticent, the 32-year-old Huang has been outspoken with criticism of the show, despite its positive reviews and promising launch.
"I do everything the best that I can, and I think that show can be better," he declared. In his view, it's a soft-edged, watered-down version of his experiences trying to find his place in an American suburban culture. "The show is good for what it is, but I think it should stick more to the book.
"I've been sending proposals for episodes," he added. "I want to write episodes in season 2."
Maybe he will in the year ahead, and Monday night was an occasion to welcome that new year.
"This is my Christmas, this is THE holiday!" he said. "You give thanks for the year before. You pray to your ancestors for the next year. You sweep out the bad luck and get your house in order."
And you ponder the wisdom of your parents.
"My dad always says, 'Be a good person.' My mom says, 'Get money.'"
Having shared these fundamental tips for living, Huang burst out with a hearty laugh.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Frazier Moore is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at http://www.twitter.com/tvfrazier. Past stories are available at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/frazier-moore