Chia: How did your Taiwanese upbringing influence your work or life?
Joanne: I think that is like the question how does being female affect my work or life. It is the only thing I know, so I don’t know if it’s because I’m Taiwanese or because I’m female that I do what I do the way I do it. I have a really strong work ethic, but is it Taiwanese or is it specific to my parents or is it being the eldest? I don’t really know. One thing my parents have instilled in me is a common and true stereotype for Taiwanese which is to be humble. They’re not into bragging. In the food business, there is a lot of opportunity to grow a big ego and get a big head. And that’s never been appealed to me, and it’s always been distasteful to me when I see people showing off. I do have to promote myself and the bakery to help the business, and that’s something I do, but I wouldn’t say I get a lot of personal pleasure out of it. I don’t mind doing it, but if it weren’t for the business, I would never be out there in the public eye. In general, if you are more humble and less egotistical, you’re less likely to get pleasure out of that. I mean it personally though; when I do need to go out there to help the business, I am willing to do it.
Karen: Do you have any free time? If you do, what do you like to do?
Joanne: I don’t have a ton of free time. I try to take Sundays entirely off. I’m a big runner, so I run pretty much every day. I love to read and write a lot. The cookbook was a nice outlet for me in terms of spending time in front of a computer just writing. I really enjoy writing.
Chia: What type of stuff do you usually write?
Joanne: I’ve been involved in food writing for the last 12 years. I used to write for cooking magazines, so that segued into writing the cookbook. And I do a blog on the Flour Bakery website and the Myers + Chang website to keep myself in the writing loop.
Chia: Are there any dishes on the Myers + Chang menu inspired by Taiwanese food?
Joanne: Definitely. The whole menu was inspired by my parents, my aunt, and my grandmother—stuff I grew up with. We definitely have a lot of dishes that are not Taiwanese at all, but all of the Chinese influenced dishes are from growing up in a Taiwanese household.
Karen: What’s your favorite?
Joanne: My personal favorite is called—I can’t remember exactly what it’s called on the menu, but it’s a piece of salmon pan-roasted with a soy, sugar, ginger, vinegar marinade served on rice with a pickled cucumber and cilantro salad. It’s really simple but it’s really good.
Chia: That sounds good! We’re actually thinking about going there afterwards! I actually live right down the street.
Joanne: It’s dim sum right now—not a traditional dim sum, just a small plates menu a la carte. And they make it to order. It’s not traditional dishes either, it is mostly from different specials on our menu.
Karen: So you travel a lot between the places and depending on the day.
Chia: We were going to ask you if you have any pets, but it doesn’t seem like it?
Joanne: No, we’ve talked about getting a dog, but we’ll see. We’ve talked about it for so long. Or a cat. I would love a pet. It would be fun.
Chia: Especially here. You don’t live in South End, do you?
Joanne: No, I know the South End is crazy about pets. Everybody has a dog.
Karen: What advice would you give to our audience about pursuing your passion and being a leader?
Joanne: For me, when I got into the cooking industry, it was not like what it is now where it’s very celebrity oriented and TV oriented. I got into it because I really, really love it and derive a lot of personal pleasure and a lot of professional satisfaction from what I do. Because of that, I work really hard at it, and I really enjoy it. I’ve learned a lot, moved around, and now that I’m in a position of leadership, I’m eager to share my experience with the staff that works for me now. In terms of advice, the best thing to do is to focus on what exactly it is that you want t