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Daytime TV Star Thaao Penghlis Seducing Celebrities wants to Give You a Taste at his next dinner party. 

Daytime TV Star Thaao Penghlis Seducing Celebrities wants to Give You a Taste at his next dinner party.  Read all about it in his new book.

Thaao Penghlis has starred in some of the biggest TV shows of all time – including playing on daytime TV’s “Days of Our Lives”.

Thaao Penghlis new book Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time

Now in Thaao’s new book, Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time he reveals seduction in the dining room by creating incredibly delicious for his famous friends.

Today’s conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, un-edited conversation, visit our YouTube channel here

Joe Winger

Congratulations on your new book.  It’s a tasty read and a fast read. 

Thank you for joining us for a conversation today.

Thaao Penghlis: 

Thank you for inviting me.

 

Joe Winger: 

You’ve done a lot of work in your life. We’re going to go to food and books as quickly as possible. 

When you’re at an airport or in public, what is the most common thing people remember you from?

Thaao Penghlis:  

Certainly Days [of our Lives]. There’s a big Armenian contingency out there who always comes at me at the airports, [Days…] was in 152 markets. Especially when you’re in New York and it’s an international port. When Mission [Impossible] was on. I certainly enjoyed that. I think it had a large male audience because of the action and that I liked it was interesting. That kind of prepared me for the masks that I did on Days [of Our Lives]. So it was a real challenge. Working in daytime; I think the biggest challenge is remembering all those lines and giving it some kind of conviction and taking those lines off the page.

And a lot of the time, because there’s too many lines, we’re just on the edge, and so because I have a certain intensity I’m able to cover. I think through all those years people, airports probably are the biggest. I’m going to do a PA [public appearance] at the Grand Canyon in August. 

It’s a very special train ride through the Grand Canyon with just 22 fans.  It’s going to be a very intimate affair. So over the years, you get the older people who are the real followers, because the youth today have different appetites.

Just like they do with food, they’re not always conscious about what they’re eating. Unless they’re educated about it or they’re raised on good food. And I think today food has become a convenience rather than a celebration. 

Joe Winger:  

You use wonderful words in your book. It feels almost like poetry. “Food is the magic of our universe.” Can you elaborate on that a little bit?

Thaao Penghlis: 

We’ve been given such diversity as far as food is concerned, that we have that many choices, especially in countries that can afford food. But to me, once you’ve grown up tasting octopus – we used to hang it on the [clothes] line for three weeks until it dried out. There’s no blood in the octopus, therefore, it doesn’t rot – that was mouthwatering. 

Some of the fruits you have in life, like mangos.  When you can appreciate the way they’re being served.  It’s not like eating an apple. If you eat a mango and you slice it, then cut it up in quarters, there’s a different texture to it.  The flavor.  To the eye it becomes attractive. I think food, when you think about what you can control in your life and you are blessed to have it. I think food is magical because of that. 

Joe Winger: 

One more line of food poetry from your book.  “You discover your body’s secrets by the way you feed it and how it feeds you back. “

Thaao Penghlis: 

When we who are in the Greek Orthodox church, we go through a fast to the last day [of holidays like Easter] before we go to the church and get the bread and the wine.

You start to appreciate the food that you can’t have because of its limitations in the religion. The last day you’ll have olive oil on bread with some sugar, things like that. So when you get to food and understand it, when you stop eating and cleanse your body, sometimes it just juices, you become hungry.

You get to understand what food does to the body by emptying it out. If you don’t eat well, or if you eat late, then the next day, you’re not going to feel great.

So you get to understand what the body can take and what, and when, are the limitations to eating and at what hour, if you drink too much wine.  

As an actor, I don’t drink very much.  But if I have wine, the next day, my eyes are going to show it. So it tells me something about the kidneys, because the eyes are connected to the kidneys. So it’s understanding how the machine you’ve brought into life carries your soul. How does that express itself in the best way possible?

As actors, we have a responsibility because of that body being presented on camera as a certain responsibility to the producers to the show and to your audience. So you get to understand.  I would go through a four day fast with Bela’s broth, Celsius broth.  I would find that would cleanse me through the days I did like a liver cleanse, which got rid of stones.

You get to understand what the organs are, that you can do things naturally without having to take all those dreadful medicines and those pills. 

The body is all we’ve got. Why have I overcome certain things in my life? It’s always been through nutrition.

Joe Winger: 

Your journey, the things you’ve learned, and you touch upon that in the book a little bit, lessons you learn from different actors and producers and people you’ve worked with, but that’s another great lesson is as far as using it as a medicine.

The book is called Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time. It is an enormous undertaking: beautiful pictures, recipes, Hollywood stories, your family. There’s a lot going on. 

What inspired you to write the book?

Thaao Penghlis: 

The hardcover has all the colored pictures inside. So it has a different dimension to it when you actually see it, because let’s face it, presentation is very important.

So when you see color, when you see something displayed you want to get into it. If something looks like someone just piled something, it’s not attractive to the appetite. 

My manager called me one day and he said, “You always talk about food. Why don’t you do a cookbook?”

I went, “Oh, I don’t know how to do a cookbook. Everything that I’ve caught has come out of my head.”

I remembered, I learned when I worked at the UN [United Nations] for a year when I was in the diplomatic corps. In my youth I went into kitchens where they had chefs. I saw presentation. I understood the etiquette of arriving there on time.

45 minutes later you’re having the hors d’oeuvres, maybe it’s champagne, maybe it’s some caviar or whatever they presented. 

Then it was time to go into the dining room and sit there. It became a ritual. And so you got to appreciate the time, the presentation that someone put in.

So all these memories came into my head. I said how would you think? How do you think about food? I said it’s really seducing people, isn’t it? 

By the way you create an atmosphere, by the way you look at a dish, and by the aroma. So I said, Let’s call it “Seducing.”

I said who have I seduced? 

How about celebrities that I’ve met and worked with? That’s how it came about seducing celebrities. One meal at a time.   

I always like to serve the first, second and the third course. But usually, I don’t join the guests on the first course, because I’m busy preparing the main course.

So I present the first course to them. Then I’m in the kitchen. The actor, Danny Kaye in the old days.  He used to be an expert of Chinese food and around the counter in his kitchen is where his friends sat and he just fed them.   That was something that was so gratifying for him. 

So I understand if it’s done well, and your friends leave.  They take it for granted.

People don’t cook these days, or they’re intimidated because of the way you’ve presented it.  So therefore let’s take you out instead. So you don’t get that personal touch that I think is so important.

When you sit around your watering hole, as I call it, that “table”, which is something if when I leave this country eventually and go home to Australia, that is one thing I’m going to take with me is that table because it has a huge history to it. 

To me the table and how you decorate it and how you present it is very important to the appetite of the person joining you.

Joe Winger:  

I’m thinking of your table, sometime in the future when you do move, that could be a heck of an auction item. The amount of people who sat around it and heard stories and shared stories. 

Speaking of those stories, you’ve named huge Hollywood stars like Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson George Clooney, amazing actors, Joanna Cassidy, William Hurt.

Your Hollywood life has been so many decades of work and amazing people.  What was the process like deciding who makes it into the book and deciding who you had to leave out?

Thaao Penghlis: 

You don’t like everybody you’ve worked with and everybody you’ve met, food is very personal

In the old days they serve you poison. In the French 18th century, you’d be sitting there and if you were an enemy, they’d serve you a dish with poison. That’s how they got rid of enemies. But I don’t know. 

Dame Edna, who I was best man at his wedding, which is Barry Humphries. He was very particular. He was also a person who loved art.  So he would walk around my house looking at what kind of a collection and made his judgment on it. 

The same thing with the food, he would taste it. He would give you that quite qualifying look that he approves. 

Omar Sharif was different. When I worked with him,  we had champagne and caviar every day, because that’s the way he lived.

[He would be] telling me stories of Lawrence of Arabia and many of his other films and I think, because I look like his son, he was very taken not in the beginning. In the beginning, he was quite rude and quite distant.  It wasn’t until I was about to start the first scene with him where he comes into the room and when I met him, he was distant, shook my hand and said, “Hello”.

So when he comes into the room, he’s supposed to slug me after something I say.

He says to me, by the way, “Please, when I hit you do not go over this 18th century table and break it. It’s very important that we are respectful about this table.”

And I said, Oh, I’m not going anywhere. And he says, what do you mean?

I said, “Oh, Omar. I said, if you hit me and I go flying off that table, where do you and I go for the next four hours?”

He says “What will you do? 

I said, “I’ll probably adjust my tie.” 

He started to laugh and that’s how it started.  

How do you infiltrate a person’s personality who comes in defensive working with Bill Hurt in “Altered States”.

I had some very difficult dialogue because it was very technical. How do you make it real?  I started to do this sequence and he says to me, “Is that how you’re going to do it? 

And I said, “Why is that how you’re going to do it?”

And from that moment, he goes, “You’re an arrogant son of a…,”

And I said, “So are you.” 

From that moment, we clicked.  When we joined hands in Mexico, away from Warner Brothers, we had a good bond. 

I never stood for his star attitude. You have to call it. So I don’t like it.  When someone brings that, I leave that, I go outside.

 

Joe Winger: 

Doris Roberts, after dinner once wrote you a note. I took that idea as an incredibly loving gesture.

if you could talk a little bit about that note, and then any other amazing gifts from you dinner parties?

Thaao Penghlis: 

When I approached Doris and she would write the introduction, her comment was, “Oh, darling, why don’t you do that?” 

I said, Doris, you’ve been coming here for dinner for years. So why can’t you just get in touch with your heart and write something pleasant?

And that’s what she wrote. 

Because every time she came, it’s like my friends who come over always know they’re going to get a good meal. I never go cheap on the thing. I’ve seen people come in the house with daisies in their hand. I said, “Does this house look like it collects daisies?” 

Or they’ll bring me Two Buck Chuck.

I said, are you bringing that so I can put it as a wine for the food, because it’s certainly not going on the table and things like that.

Where people are not experiencing you or contributing and also shows you how cheap it is. And even when Doris, who used to get crates of champagne from Dom Perignon for free, because she was connected to somebody who worked there, she would come in.

She would say “Darling, here’s some Dom Perignon, put it in the fridge.” 

I said, “Oh, okay. Thank you.” I think, Oh, this is a person who understands quality. 

Then five minutes later, she’s sitting at a chair. She says open the champagne for me, will ya?. So I realized it wasn’t for the house.  It was for her.  So she didn’t bring anything. 

Here’s this woman who makes an enormous amount of money. I’ve studied with her for over 20 years with Katsalis, the director, and then she would come in and sit at the table and she would look at the flowers and then she would look at the presentation of everything and then she would smell the food and so through that experience –  you don’t always get respect, you have to earn it.

With her, because of my work as an actor, and because of my success as an actor, and also now writing some people will say to you, “Are you writing another book? 

But they say it in such a derogatory way.

Whereas Doris said, “I’m so proud of you.“

I went out with Doris, just the two of us went to movies because she always had to have company.  She was like Joan Rivers. She had to have every night filled. She couldn’t stand just being on her own. So when she was invited to my home, she always remembered the presentation and the flavors of that evening. 

Joe Winger: 

Let’s talk a little bit about what was the process of writing the book like this time?

Thaao Penghlis: 

Recipes are in my head.

So I had to cook in my head. For six months I started to think, Oh,I never wrote anything down. 

I would call friends and say, “What was your favorite meal I cooked?”

Then I would say, Oh, okay, that’s good; and then I would just test my friends and they would tell me what they like the best.

So I got all these recipes that were still in my head. And I somehow remember what I put in it. My sister in law in Australia says to me, the difference between you and I as chefs is that I have to have a cookbook in front of me. You open the fridge and say, what are we going to eat?

I spent six months going through recipes. 

Then finally I said, what did my mother cook? The Greek traditional foods or the Greek desserts. And my sisters are very good at cooking desserts. 

Then slowly I collected the foods and started to make them. 

Joe Winger: 

That’s an incredible journey. 

We’ve pushed toward the idea of an impolite or a bad dinner guest.  How do we find an appropriate dinner gift? And then what would be a definite no?

Thaao Penghlis: 

People will ask me, what can we bring?

It’s a silly question because you can’t bring food. So you, what do you bring wine?  Or flowers? Or whatever enhances the atmosphere?

But something that’s not here, but sometimes when they keep asking me that, I say, bring cash. And that always throws them because they take it seriously.

So sometimes I won’t answer that question. I said, “Surprise me. But make it expensive.”

So I like to play with them.  

I said to a friend of mine once, your hands are always empty.  They never spoke to me for three years after that. They turned around and left. 

There’d been guests who arrived when you had a seven o’clock dinner and arrived at 9:30. I’ll open the door and say to them, “I’m sorry, we’ve already had dinner. We’ll talk another time.” And then I closed the door because I find it disrespectful.

It tells you who people are and their consciousness. I don’t like unconscious people, but we’re  going through a very difficult time in the world. 

And it’s all because people are not conscious of others. It’s always about them. And so to me, the wonderful thing about serving food and expecting something in return, something.

Even if it’s – we used to write notes in the old days, a phone call – but texts now have become such a convenience.

Why don’t you just call me and tell me where I spent two days preparing this, that you can’t afford a five minute phone call, but you’ll text me in one sentence and that’s it. 

Things like that I don’t approve of. 

I think that kind of communication short changes [the memory of the experience].  I want to be at times where you want to cook again. If you’re not gonna share something about yourselves, call me the next day and say, I had such a wonderful evening. Some people think it’s enough when they leave, or they got here, 

But they don’t understand how you complete things.  Completion is very important. Just as an actor, you have an arc in your character, it’s complete. 

The same thing with food. 

When I serve food, it’s complete. I have an order: I have hors d’oeuvres. I have a first course. I have the main course. And then I have dessert and maybe some Greek coffee or tea or whatever people need and the wines.

But I just find people are unbelievable. They don’t understand what it takes to put an evening together. 

If you don’t know how to treat me, I’m going to show you. So that’s what I said there.

Joe Winger:

Have you ever played with the idea of a cooking show? Is that something you see at all for yourself?

Thaao Penghlis: 

It’s a lot of work.  All that preparation. I’ve done it as a guest here and there. 

Joan Rivers used to join guests and everything, she always made some wonderful jokes.

Dame Edna would make wonderful jokes. 

I’m doing a book signing May 22nd at the Grove in Los Angeles at a Barnes and Noble.  I’ve got to do a cooking show. I thought what are we going to cook?  Something that’s not difficult. 

So I’m going to do a vegetarian dish, which is not in the book, but it’s with shiitake mushroom, truffle oils, mint, basil heirloom tomato, raw peas and pine nuts. Then I will mix that in with the pasta and some olive oil and then some truffle oil and with some herbs and that’s about it. 

That’s so convenient and it’s such a delicious dish with Parmesan cheese over it. 

Joe Winger: 

The book is called Seducing Celebrities: One meal at a time 

You breezed over Joan Rivers for a moment and I wanted to touch upon it because In that chapter, you help us see her in a different way than what we always think of her as, especially being in the car with her daughter, Melissa as a young girl.

When I think of Joan Rivers, the stereotype, I think of outrageous, and you have one or two moments beyond her, Barbra Streisand, there’s a little bit of outrageousness there, are there any outrageous moments that you didn’t include that you thought about including?

Thaao Penghlis: 

I don’t I don’t mind telling stories, or privately telling stories.

There’s got to be a borderline, just like etiquette.  If I’m expecting for people to behave a certain way.

One time, there was a famous guest, which I won’t mention, who was having problems with their daughter, and they were sitting around the table. The phone rang in the middle of dinner, and he answered it, he starts screaming on the phone, and telling his daughter off.

I just lost it, I got up and I said, “If you don’t mind, take your bloody phone call outside, we’re not interested in your private business and how rude of you.”

Because I don’t like people bringing phones into the house.

The inner chatter that goes on with people’s minds, where they’re so distracted with life instead of just being there.  Being present. 

With Telly Savalas as well. There have been times also with people with Days [of Our Lives] and I couldn’t tell those stories because firstly, I have to work with him again. Secondly, I don’t think it’s everybody’s business.

There was a book that Hustler put out all the stories about those magnificent stars of the [1940s] and talked about their sexual proclivities. 

Someone said, “Why would you do that?”  Why would you betray your friends that way? 

You smash the myth. They spent years creating a myth.  But when you start getting into the nitty gritty, you make those people ordinary. And show business is not about being ordinary.

So I try to refrain from telling things that go beyond the norm. I want to be able to see these people later in some time, even though they’re gone,

I still believe we’ll see them on the other side that they did more good for me. Otherwise it’s a matter of respect and keeping someone’s dignity there.

Joe Winger: 

Your book starts almost like a love note or a Valentine to growing up with your family. Your mother, your father, their first trip to L. A., to your grandfather George’s herrings and olive oil tin.

Thaao Penghlis: 

Yeah, that was something to watch growing up.  

To see my grandfather bringing his knowledge of food from the islands of Greece. 

What I remember the most, even my grandmother, you’ve come down in the mornings and you can smell the cinnamon toast. She would be dipping wicks into wax and creating candles for the church.

Joe Winger: 

Seducing celebrities one meal at a time. 

Can you give us a tease about what you’re looking forward to in the future?

Thaao Penghlis: 

I just finished exploring the Holy Families. 

I did a two week trek up and down the Nile to these sacred places. So I’ve written a story because most of the things we see about religion are postcards or lovely paintings. What do we do when we explore it within ourselves and follow those routes? Something else happened.

I’ve written a teleplay. It’s very interesting the way it begins and where it begins and how it follows through into The Great Escape. 

Find Thaao Penghlis’ new book on Amazon at  Seducing Celebrities: One Meal at a Time

 

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LA’s Tracie May Shines Global Spotlight on Asian Flavor as Vietnamese Publicist and Foodie

LA’s Tracie May Vietnamese Publicist and Foodie Shines Global Spotlight on Asian Flavor

Tracie May made a name for herself in Los Angeles for 25 years as a luxury publicist and event planner leading hundreds of Opening Night parties, events and red carpets.

Then in an “Eat, Pray, Love” – inspired move, she decided to take a leap and move across the world.  

In 2020, she relocated to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and became the Senior Editor of Epicure Vietnam Magazine, the most prestigious culinary and hospitality publication in Asia.

Today we catch up with Tracie to talk about life in Vietnam.  The people, the culture, and of course the food.

Publicist Tracie May Indulges in Delicious at her role with Epicure Vietnam Magazine

Joe Winger: 

What’s the most important thing that you want to share during this conversation?

Tracie May: 

Don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith. Honestly, I took a massive leap of faith, uprooting my entire life.  

I had a big life in LA.  I was there for 25 years, and to take that leap of faith to relocate to Vietnam.  It was never even on my radar.

People thought that I was insane when I said I was doing this. It was not supposed to be for the long term. But the whole point is, you never know where opportunity is going to come. You don’t know what your future looks like, until you write your own story.

I am proof positive that anything is possible if you just take a risk for yourself and your happiness, because the energy or the universe will provide for you if you’re truthful, connected and really get specific about what you want.

Tracie May with Chef Eden Daus of Lesung, holding Epicure Vietnam Magazine

Tracie May with Chef Eden Daus of Lesung, holding Epicure Vietnam Magazine

Joe Winger:   

You are now the senior editor of Epicure Vietnam Magazine.  Tell me a bit about the magazine and your role.

Tracie May: 

It’s a really beautiful, glossy print publication. They also have online and social [media presence].

It’s available in every VIP lounge, every business lounge at every major hotel, airline and club lounge. It has a lot of subscribers. 

Focuses on culinary, luxury travel, hospitality, wine, chef profiles. [Food and beverage] business profiles as well as features on certain resort properties.

I was really lucky to [connect with] the publisher.  I sent her a bunch of my writing samples. I joined the magazine about 17 months ago. 

My main focuses are editing content, making sure the English is perfect, and dealing with editorial and the marketing teams.

But my favorite part is running the news section.  [It’s] basically my curation of what’s hot in [food & beverage] in Saigon and all over the world. 

I get to eat the best food all the time. 

The majority of the restaurants that we cover are very high-end, gorgeous, [food and beverage] in town. So I get to eat a lot of amazing food which is awesome. 

The food in Vietnam is extraordinary.

Joe Winger:

As a USA foodie, what’s a lesson you’ve learned about Vietnamese cuisine that you want the world to know about?

Tracie May: 

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned, and it is evident in my extreme weight loss of 75 pounds in 2 ½  years, is it’s whole real food.

They are not jacking up their cows and their pigs with hormones. Organic is actually a thing here. The quality of the food, it’s not processed crap in a box that is run by Monsanto.

Because of the climate here, Dalat, which is the region in Vietnam where most of the produce is grown, some of the most unbelievable tasting produce is grown there. 

The fruit is unlike anything you’ve ever tasted. 

A watermelon is the sweetest, juiciest, delicious thing you’ve ever put in your mouth; and it’s available from every little fruit stand that is on Quốc Hương.

I walk to my local [stores] because I like to support locals here and have my little bag and pull my produce and all of it is grown on their farm, 

It’s just that’s how people eat here. There is no Kraft macaroni and cheese. There is no processed, boxed chemicals here. 

Because of that, the quality of the flavor profiles is so superior. 

So that is the biggest difference.

The reason why there’s such an obesity problem in the U.S. is the abundance of processed food.

[Here in Vietnam], even fast food.  We’ve got McDonald’s and Popeye’s and KFC. But the taste of a Big Mac or a Whopper with cheese is far different than anything you can get in the States because of the quality of the meat that they use.

That is the biggest difference of why Vietnam is so globally recognized as such a foodie hub.

Joe Winger: 

You’re doing a lot to bring attention to Vietnam as a foodie hub.

Tracie May: 

I was the guest judge on Top Chef Vietnam, and I was the guest judge on the finale of this show called Super Cake, Banh Xeo, which was basically, Build a beautiful cake. And these Vietnamese national TV, reality shows which showcase culinary.

So that was fun.

Joe Winger: 

If somebody from the United States comes to Vietnam for a few days, from a food point of view, what must we try? 

Tracie May: 

Saigon is incredibly vibrant and there’s too much to do.  For the best Vietnamese food hands down It is in district one, which is basically the city. 

Mạ Quán 

Mạ Quán

Mạ Quán 

It’s gorgeous. A restaurant with Vietnamese cuisine that focuses on historical dishes from the imperial city of Huế to the north and in Hanoi to the Mekong Delta and is visually stunning.

The flavors are unbelievable. For sure if you want to eat an extraordinary Vietnamese meal, that’s a place, hands down, highly recommended. 

Lesung

Lesung

Lesung SGN 

In the last 3 months I was introduced to Malaysian cuisine.  Spicy,  sambal based, chili based. The chef / owner is a fine dining chef, who’s a celebrity chef here. He wanted to get back to his roots and he opened this restaurant that’s very reasonably priced.  Fine dining, but in a casual setting, not expensive and truly authentic Malaysian cuisine.   All of his grandmother’s recipes and it’s home cooking at its best. That is a must go. 

Noriboi Omakase

Noriboi Omakase

If you love sushi, Noriboi is an extraordinary omakase restaurant in Thảo Điền, in the town where I live. 12 to 18 tastings of caviar, and the best uni flown in from Japan, and extraordinary toro, and you can’t imagine how good, it’s insane.

Joe Winger: 

You took a very dramatic pivot a few years ago and it turned out so well. 

Tracie May: 

I knew that I had to make a change. I knew that I was unhappy.  Even though I had great friends and a great life and did really cool stuff in LA, I felt like I was just trapped in a hamster wheel.

I was bit by the “Eat Pray Love” bug. 

Decided that, life’s too short to be unhappy.

There is a big, wide, beautiful world out there. Why not explore it while I have the chance?

I happen to have family who live in Saigon, and we conspired together.

I sold my car, put everything in storage, all the paperwork, packed my two dogs and three suitcases and got on a plane.

The original plan was to hang out in Southeast Asia for three months.

Leave my stuff with my family, get a backpack and travel throughout Southeast Asia and go pray with some Buddhist monks.  Have my Tomb Raider moment in Angkor Wat in Cambodia and go do a lot of scuba diving.  Then three months later, go home [to the United States] and face the music. 

But COVID happened, my life shifted. So I stayed. 

I couldn’t have imagined a more incredible life that I’ve been able to curate for myself than I have been able to in Saigon.

Tracie May at Tet Lunar New Year 2024 party

Tracie May at Tet Lunar New Year 2024 party

Joe Winger: 

Your background is a world class publicist in North America.  Because of the pandemic, you went from a publicist to a “stay at home mom” figure.

Tracie May: 

I did, but I still had to pay my bills, right?

So I had a free place to stay because my family was paying the rent. When [my family] got stuck in the US during COVID, when Vietnam closed their borders, they got locked out for 10 months. 

Suddenly I’m a mother to 2 kids in an international school. I’ve got to take care of their three dogs, my two dogs, their villa, all their stuff, in a country that I didn’t know and a language that I didn’t speak.

It was all about pivoting.

At the time I had hot pink hair.  All the expat moms, they’ve got kids and they live in a compound because their husbands run Nike or Adidas or…[some huge company]

There’s me, this newbie from LA with my fuchsia hair riding my family’s electric bike with the kids on the back taking them to school.

The [expat Moms are] like, who and what is this? 

Originally I became the talk of the town. 

I live in a bubble, a little enclave within the city, it’s expat land. 

I really think in the beginning I made friends out of total pity.  Suddenly they were like, “Let’s take you to lunch.”  So there were several luncheons introducing me to society and I created my clan. 

The one thing that’s hard about here is that the expat life is very rotational because a lot of the families are on contract.

If you work at the consulate, you’ve got a 2-3 year contract. 

Once the contract is done, you’re back home. I don’t want to leave. 

So one of the hardest things about making really close friends here is that they leave. So it’s a lot of continual rotation.

I have friends who’ve been here for 14 years up to 35 years who felt the bug like me and decided no, this is where you want to be right now. This is a good place to be, but yeah, that’s basically how it happened.

Joe Winger: 

A minute ago, you used the phrase “talk of the town.”  Let’s dive deeper.

You’re getting huge growth on social media. Food and dining, lifestyle, travel in this genre. Your face is everywhere. Your voice is everywhere. Your name is everywhere. 

What’s it like living your life, when someone sees your face, name and recognizes you? 

Tracie May: 

It is bizarre. 

I have no idea how it happened, especially in Vietnam.  Local Vietnamese don’t speak a word of English. 

There’ve been so many times that I’m walking my dogs up my street or [I’m] on the back of a “Grab” bike, which is our version of Uber and they see me, look at my picture before and say:

 “Sorry, Madame. Are you Madam Tracy?”

And show me a picture of myself. 

I’m sure it’s due to doing TV appearances on Top Chef Vietnam and other major, national primetime TV shows here with millions of Vietnamese watching.

It’s bizarre, especially coming from Hollywood where all my focus has always been the promotion of others and the promotion of brands.

Suddenly I’m the [one being] promoted and I just find it really funny. But I’m grateful. 

Joe Winger: 

How has publicity changed from LA to Vietnam?

Tracie May: 

I wear a lot of hats here [in Vietnam].   I’ve become the “go to” event producer.

I was a pretty major event producer in the States and produced [around] 250 fashion shows in three continents around the world, a bunch of parties in LA, and red carpets.

There’s tons of talent in Vietnam.  So now I’m doing it for major Western companies who want a sprinkle of American or they want a real Western perspective for [their event], I’m the girl they call.

One of the events I produced was the 25th anniversary of the Sofitel Saigon Plaza Hotel

That was a huge event inviting every government official, major CEO, all of their massive VIPs. 

Tracie May with Artist Jerome Pichard

Tracie May with Artist Jerome Peschard

I’m actually about to produce another event with Sofitel for one of my clients. One of the most talented people I’ve ever met in my entire life, Jerome Peschard

He’s a French artist with the same story as me, except he got here, fell in love with Saigon and just never left .  He met his wife and has a bunch of kids.  He has become the most collected artist in Asia globally, for specifically pop art related to historic, historic Vietnamese French and machine and pop art and he does it all.  Composite art. 

I brokered a deal with Sofitel on the 21st of July in celebration of the 60 year anniversary of the Sofitel Hotels and Resorts global brand, their Diamond Jubilee.

We are doing a two month installation, exclusive installation of his works being some are 2.6 meters x 1. 5 meters  – large scale, which are going to be in the lobby as an installation in collaboration with the hotel.

It’s a massive thing, and they called me, so I’m really honored. 

I get to work with him every day and he’s a total rock star.

Tracie May living her best life in Vietnam

Joe Winger: 

What’s the theme at this point in your life?

Tracie May: 

The moral of the story is “Don’t be afraid to take the leap of faith.”

Joe Winger: 

It sounds like you crossed your fingers, closed your eyes and took the jump. 

Was there a big concern before taking that jump? How did that big concern work out for you?

Tracie May: 

It’s very personal.

The concern wasn’t about work. I knew that I could work internationally. I knew I could do PR online and still service clients abroad. No matter where you are in the world, the cream rises to the top and you will figure it out.

On a personal level in the sense that I have always been a serial monogamist. I had a really petrified, paralyzing fear of being alone.

The idea of being 50 and alone again, scared me. Having to start over again, scared me. 

What I’ve learned from that is, I have no problems dating. I have no issue being alone. I actually revel in it because my life is so public now. When I get to be in my underpants, watching Netflix with my two dogs, eating a ham and cheese on freshly baked sourdough baguette with some tomatoes and lettuce; and some truffle aioli from my friend’s company. That’s my happy place. 

That has been the biggest lesson that being alone is okay. Being alone is actually a good thing. 

I don’t need to have a partner or a marriage to justify and qualify who I am. I’m just fine on my own. 

Joe Winger: 

What are the ways to find you and follow you online? How do you want people to find you?

Tracie May: 

It’s all about the gram, right? My Instagram is @_TracieMay_  

Or you can find me as Tracie May on LinkedIn.

My blog is here, but I rarely update it because I never have time.

Beverly Hills Favorite Choice for Healing, Find out Why Patients Choose Vivie Therapy

Feeling Pain? Beverly Hills Vivie Therapy can help with 100s of 5 Star Reviews

We talk so much about food and drinks, nights out,  and travel all the time, but we don’t always talk about our bodies and our health; keeping ourselves in shape and in fitness. 

Vivian Eisenstadt from Vivie Therapy

Vivian Eisenstadt from Vivie Therapy

That’s why I wanted to talk with Vivian Eisenstadt from Vivie Therapy. 

Joe Winger: 

Can you tell us a little bit about your professional background and what kind of certifications it takes to be the owner of Vivie Therapy?

Vivian Eisenstadt:

I am originally from Brooklyn, New York, and I got my bachelor’s in Athletic training from Brooklyn College.

I went on to get a second bachelor’s in Health Science from Turo College in Long Island, where I also got a Masters in Physical Therapy. 

Then moved to Los Angeles where I worked in Cedars Sinai outpatients, Physical Therapy Center. 

While I worked there, I actually went on to get an extra credential called Orthopedic Specialist.

Then when they opened Cedars Sinai Spine Center, I was one of the physical therapists who went there and integrated physical therapy into the spine center to collaborate with the spine doctors and help them understand actually what physical therapy was. 

I became a director of a pilates-based physical therapy center in Brentwood and then later in Beverly Hills.

That inspired me to open up my own place. 

I first opened up in a gym on Robertson Boulevard, and now I have been working on my own, in my own space since 2005.

I went on to get a Spiritual Psychology Degree in 2014, which I really think has taken my ability to help a person heal holistically.

By holistically, approaching physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, chemical at the same time. When you address them all you get more. Totality and healing and more long term results.

Joe Winger: 

Something you said a minute ago that I want to touch on and go deeper on is you help the doctors learn more about physical therapy.

What did you teach those doctors about physical therapy?

Vivian Eisenstadt:

The doctors actually didn’t really know much about physical therapy as most doctors don’t know.

It might’ve changed over the past 20 years. 

But doctors are taught chemicals and drugs and surgeries.  Physical therapy is actually how to avoid all of that, or how to get past that phase to get ultimate healing. 

Physical therapy is an art by which, when a person gets injured, the body will heal, but there are speed bumps along the way to healing, such as the creation of scar tissue, or creating habits that you had when you were in pain, like limping, that you don’t want to have because that’ll lead to other issues and will not help you heal correctly.

So physical therapy is about getting better quicker and getting better in a way where you prevent future injury and where you could be stronger. 

If somebody gets injured because their body was out of balance and their weakest spot is what got affected, as physical therapists, we evaluate the entire body and see, where is the source of the pain.

Like you can have an ankle that is always in pain, but it could be coming from the fact that your lower lumbar vertebrae in your back are out of place. 

So physical therapy is a really good way for someone to analyze where your pain is stemming from in a different way than doctors do. 

In a way that if it is repaired, you get fully better and move on with your life.

Joe Winger: 

Almost like a body detective. Is it more affordable than most surgeries and hospital operations? 

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

Unfortunately, the insurance companies try not to pay. 

So I have so many patients where we’ve submitted our reports and they’re just finding reasons not to pay, but for some reason they listen to doctors and they’re like, “Oh, you need a shot.  Here’s a shot.” 

It’s amazing the different listening that insurance companies have. You will save money in the long run when you go to a physical therapist.

If you go to a proper physical therapist who will help you not only heal from your current issue, but help you address the underlying causes and the underlying reasons, like neck pain due to poor posture.

Then you come in, we teach you how to sit straight. 

So not only are you making your back feel better, but you won’t end up in my office again. 

I tell my patients that the best compliment you can give me is to send your friends to me. 

I don’t want you in my office. I just want you to refer your friends and family.

Joe Winger: 

I’m assuming there’s a wide range of services you offer. 

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

We have physical therapy evaluation, which is about an hour where I help detect where your pain is coming from and all the different things that are feeding into it.

So you have the evaluation, which includes the treatment, and then we decide what kind of path we want to go on together. 

Massage Therapist on Staff

Follow up sessions are an hour, and then we also have a massage therapist on staff.  An amazing one who’s been working with me, Marcia, since 2002. 

You might just need a lot of deep tissue work, so you’ll get a couple of massages.

Then we also have modalities that help your body feel better as a whole. 

Detox Foot Baths

For instance, detox foot baths that pull out the toxins from your body. The less toxins in your body, the more you feel better. 

Infrared Sauna

We also have an infrared sauna, another way to detoxify. 

We get a lot of people post chemotherapy or radiation, or if you’re on meds for a while and you want to sweat them out. So we help you sweat them out in the infrared sauna. 

Lifestream Generator

We have a machine called Lifestream Generator, which puts a high frequency of electricity through your body, and that works on every level because our brain is made up of electric signals. 

If you put a high vibration in you, it kicks out the low vibration.

So we’ve seen people feel emotionally different after they come here, like sleep better or feel more motivated or have more energy throughout the day or just be able to process things that they weren’t able to process without it.

Joe Winger: 

Are there common, everyday people living their life – nothing traumatic may have actually happened to them – yet they could heal better, they could feel better by coming to visit you?

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

What’s fascinating is that when people think that they need to feel better, they think of like a massage. Okay. 

Physical therapy is people that are actually trained to analyze your body and find out where your imbalances are and then directly go and start working on them.

Not just work around your body and hope they get somewhere that feels good.  The longstanding effects.

People come to me usually because their lawyer sent them for a personal injury case or their doctor sent them for physical therapy or they know that they need physical therapy because of an injury. 

But over the past, but once they come in and I give them a couple of treatments, they didn’t realize that they could feel as good as they feel.

They thought that their “normal” was the way you’re supposed to feel, but their “normal” is out of balance in general. 

Once you get put in alignment and put in balance, you don’t remember how it feels until you’re feeling that way again. 

Then you’re like, “Oh my God, I didn’t know that I could feel this way.”

You don’t know until someone does it to you because nobody promotes wellness as preventative. We do. But not enough people listen.

I always say people come to me when they’re ready to get better and not a day before. 

I try not to make them feel bad about it. 

I truly believe that people step into my office when they’re ready to get better and some people come in and they’re just not ready to get better. 

You can just see it in just our interaction. And that’s okay too.

Everybody’s on their own agenda and their own souls path. 

So I help the people where they’re at.  

Joe Winger: 

I went on Google and Yelp, just wanted to see how many physical therapists were in the area. And you probably know this, there’s a lot.

If someone’s out there looking for a physical therapist, why would they choose Vivie Therapy? 

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

That’s an easy one. The reason why people would want to come to Vivie Therapy as opposed to other ones is because I am a sole practitioner.

I am a physical therapist who will be with you the entire time. 

Most of these physical therapy centers are playing the insurance game where they’re trying to get as many people an hour because they have to deal with all those insurance issues that I mentioned where they don’t pay a lot so then it’s a numbers game.

I have dedicated myself to being an extremely good diagnostician. 

So we figure out what’s not working very early in the game, and then we get straight to work. 

As you can tell by my over 200 reviews by now, that I come in, I do my job, I get you in and out of here as soon as possible, as quickly as possible.

You get quality of care. You are heard here. 

I am here to listen to what is going on for you. Most of the time, the patient is what tells me what’s wrong with them. 

Unlike in most doctor’s offices and many physical therapy offices, I’m not on autopilot. 

I’m present. I’m in the conversation. I’m here to see why you’re in my office and what you want to get out of it.

Then we just get straight to work.

Joe Winger: 

You have a lot of machinery at your office.

Can you walk us through some of the more popular pieces? 

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

Being a physical therapist, I have the standard physical therapy modalities, ultrasound, electric stim, infrared light, which is amazing at getting the cells to stimulate them to work harder in an area. 

But I also have all the Pilates equipment that you would need.

I have spinal traction.

I have some alternative modalities that have helped me when I had Epstein – Barr and got my own body into remission, a Whole Body Vibration Machine, which you stand on. 

It was originally created by the cosmonauts so they wouldn’t lose muscle strength and bone density in space.  When patients go on there, I feel that they get better in 2/3 the time. Because we’re not just working on the muscle or the tendon that’s injured, but we’re making the body actually pump your blood around and move your lymph around and put oxygen in the cell and release serotonin, testosterone ,growth hormone, all that the whole body vibration machine does. 

So unless you have an underlying illness, I start my patients on that machine because it’s literally like working out and getting the body into a healing state.

I find that has made such a big difference and it also turns on your muscles.

You could ask somebody to turn on their transverse abs for posture.  But if you’ve been sitting in a chair your whole life, your body just forgot the signal. 

Now, the good thing about muscles is that once you turn that signal on, muscles have memory.

So the whole body vibration machine actually uses lower motor neuron contractions to turn on those muscles. 

Then afterwards, when I ask you to find them, there’s a chance you could find them.

Joe Winger: 

When you’re talking about all this, I can see your eyes light up.  You’re inspired. You’re passionate. 

Is there a moment that just sparked you, realizing you wanted to devote your life to this?

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

I was lucky. [Author] Wayne Dyer has this thing called “The shift.”

It’s a moment in your life where you remember [everything about it]: where you were, what the temperature was, like a light bulb, the aha effect. 

I was a tomboy my whole life.  I was a basketball player, but in The Jewish Hebrew schools where your average height is 5’6”.

Then I went to Brooklyn College and the average height is 5’11” for someone who wants to be on the girls basketball team. 

So what’s a little me to do? 

I became an athletic training major and for our field trip, we went to an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy place and I walk in and: “Aha!”.  

That was it. There was life before that and life after that. 

This will satisfy the doctor / lawyer side of the family. And I’ll be able to work with sports for the rest of my life if I want. 

I went back to school, got the list of classes, and that was the end of that. 

It’s funny because when they tell you to go and do residencies when you’re in physical therapy school, you’re like, Oh, you got to try this.

You got to try geriatrics. 

You got to try cardio. 

You got to try everything. 

I’m like, Nope. I know what I’m doing. 

That’s exactly what I did from the first job I had out when I was done was in an outpatient orthopedic physical therapy place. 

Joe Winger: 

So you have a new patient. They come into your Beverly Hills office. Is there a common misconception by new patients that you have to help break through?

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

There’s a couple of things that sadden me a little bit. 

One is people really just don’t know what physical therapists do. At the same time, I’m different than most physical therapists on top of that. 

Most people go to other facilities where they’re given to one person and given some ultrasound and then given exercises.

I don’t hang out in other physical therapy places often, so I have nothing to compare it to.

But when people come here, they’re in gratitude over how much we accomplish in one hour.

They feel, in general, 50% better quickly.

Then the other 50% takes a while. 

The fact that I’m able to actually make a 75% shift in their symptoms by the end of the first visit. That’s the expectation you should have.

Some people have gone to therapy for 6 months not knowing what they should expect just because their doctor told them to go. 

I tell people that if you don’t feel significantly different over a month or two, then that might be your plateau and you should look somewhere else.

People have to be an advocate for their own wellness and not just hand over the power to whoever is treating them.

Joe Winger: 

Let’s talk about the life cycle of a patient.

Can you walk us through an average or a common problem from  beginning, middle, end to any patient story working Vivie Therapy?

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

Yeah, postural issues are my bread and butter. 

People sit at computers, they sit in cars, they’re just sitting all day. So we get a lot of neck pain and headaches and tingling down the arms and low back pain.

First, I isolate exactly where the pain is coming from.  

I teach ergonomics, how to sit the right way, proper stretches to do throughout the day.

The same way you bring your car in to get your tires [rotated] and your oil changed.

For the same reason you have to take care of your car, you have to take care of your body. 

So if you’re gonna be sitting at a computer for 8 hours a day, you’re gonna have to set your timer and get up every couple of hours. 

Do a little stretch in the doorway or stretch when you get home.  Stretch in the morning before you go to work.

Make sure you’re sitting correctly.

Make sure that your laptop or desktop is in the right angle. 

Take  appropriate breaks, drink enough water. Handle your stress.

But everybody’s a different amount of each of that. 

Fixing the immediate issue is part of looking at why are they in my office.

Joe Winger: 

All your different patients.  All the different industries you’ve services.  Any memorable stories?

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

One thing being in the entertainment industry, in Hollywood, is I get a lot of actors.  Literally actor’s tools are their body. 

So I’ll get patients that are in the industry, that are in front of the camera, and they’re standing like crap.  They’re sitting like crap.

I’ve seen their Callbacks improve because how you hold your body…  How you do anything is how you do everything.

So when an actor has a nice elongated neck, broad shoulders and an open heart chakra.  They’re presenting themselves to the camera, chances of them getting hired improve significantly. 

So literally their job depends on it. 

They come in because their neck hurts. But the truth is their neck hurts because they’ve been [hunched] over the computer and on their phones.

Another thing I’ve seen is a beautiful actress who I just started working with. She went to an Oscar party and she was wearing the most beautiful dress and her posture was so crappy and it made her look so ugly. 

What’s the point of getting yourself together if you don’t know how to present your body physically to match the time, energy and effort it took for you to put on the beautiful dress and get your makeup done by five people?

Another one was a pilot that I had.

Imagine if the guy that’s flying your plane is not focusing on what he’s doing because his neck hurts?

When I saw the pilot and I made his neck feel better, he started telling me about just how distracting it is to be in pain while he’s trying to fly a plane with the 300 passengers on it.

So the importance of pain not being the primary thing you think about in your life is just life altering.

Another one is doctors. 

Doctors don’t know what physical therapy is in general. When I work on them. I feel like they haven’t learned what physical therapy is and what it does. The reason I say that is that patients should advocate for themselves. 

When they go to a doctor, the doctor is going to want to give you drugs or surgery, not because that’s all he gets paid for, even though that’s all he gets paid for, but because that might be all he knows.

Instead of having somebody stick needles into your body, they could possibly hit a nerve. 

Ask your doctor to take you to physical therapy.

To give you a prescription to physical therapy, and be adamant about it. 

Be your own advocate. 

You can just go to a physical therapist and then go to a doctor if the physical therapist feels that what they’re doing can’t make you feel better.

Unfortunately, because of the way that the wellness industry has been presented in the past 50 years, people think of going to a doctor first when they’re in pain.

Where I hope in the future, unless it’s something severe, if it’s just an ache or a pain, choose to go to a physical therapist first, then go to a doctor.

 

Joe Winger: 

I know you love your neighborhood.  Talk about your favorite things in Beverly Hills.

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

I like my mornings where I take my four dogs on an hour walk. It’s very quiet in the neighborhood.  That’s where I prepare my day, talk to my East Coast friends because they’re three hours ahead. 

My mornings are always pretty sacred, special and consistent for me.

Then after work, I like going to restaurants, Hillstone in Santa Monica. Excellent. 

I love that I live in Pico Robertson, which is 20 minutes from Hollywood, 20 minutes from the water, 20 minutes from downtown, 20 minutes from the restaurants I want.

I’m very localized.

I’ll get patients from Brentwood, Malibu, Santa Monica, Palms, Culver city, West LA. Mid Wilshire, Koreatown, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Hollywood.

Some people really travel to see me because of word of mouth.

I’m proud to say that I’ve probably hit my tipping point in terms of working with personal injury lawyers around here, working with doctors around here. 

At this point, word of mouth.  If you’re happy, you’re going to tell people what to do when they need you, when they need someone like me as well.

Joe Winger:

A lot of people who are reading this are foodies.  Any great food spots in your neighborhood?

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

Just in the Pico Robertson area. Yeah. Dr. Sandwich. The food is just that good.  I get the chicken shawarma bowl to-go.  You’re pointing to all the things you want in it, you can have everything that’s in there. 

Peppers, cauliflower, mayo cabbage, with the hummus, tahina and their laffa bread.

[For me] each bowl lasts three meals. So you get your bang for your buck. 

Trattoria Bella Roma SPQR

I think it’s not such a best kept secret of the neighborhood, because I see a lot of people that come from West LA and West Hollywood come down, like people travel to this place, 

It’s an authentic Italian restaurant with the guy from Italy making your food.

I just like hearing him talk about the food because he’s talking about the soup and the “no sugar, no this..” and he’s got gluten free penne.  So he’s catering to the neighborhood.

But the food is spectacular.

I like places that I could bring people, they go, “Oh let’s go there again sometime!” You always want to impress your friends in the neighborhood.

Some people eat to live and some people live to eat. 

Summer Fish and Rice

Another place around here.  Summer Fish and Rice. It is one block south of Wilshire, right off Robertson.  And again, good food, good sushi. An amazing spicy tuna crispy rice. I don’t know if I want to talk about this place because it’s crowded enough as it is. You don’t want too many people knowing about your places.

Joe Winger: 

Tell us what kind of dishes you make at home.

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

I make Every plate, they send it to you with the cards and I become a chef with every plate.

The food is so good because you just follow it verbatim.  Last night I had chicken with garlic rice and carrots, this soy buttery dressing on top. 

Another time I had chicken lettuce cups. Another time you make some burgers with fresh fries. I’m just saying I am not a cook. I am a direction follower from Every Plate.

Joe Winger: 

Whether it’s cooking food or eating food, is there any therapeutic value with the food we love?

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

Usually when you crave something, it means your body needs it. 

If I’m craving tomato sauce, it usually means I’m low in magnesium. And you are what you eat. 

At every moment we’re coming from a physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, and chemical place. When you move one, you move them all.

That’s why they say drugs and alcohol, low vibration, so people feel sluggish

Things with nutrients and high vibrations, you feel better. 

At every moment,  your body’s either going towards balance or away from balance.

When you give your body what it needs nutritionally, you’re going to be more towards balance. 

When you do things that hinder your body’s wellness, you’re going away from balance. 

Homeostasis is your body’s homeostasis. Consistent, trying to balance everything you’re giving it. Of course, what we put in our bodies is literally what makes us or breaks us.

So you need to remember that. 

But know your game so you know how to play. I’m an excessive moderate. I never tell somebody it’ll only be one way. What’s the use of living longer if you’re living miserably? 

It’s not about how long you live. It’s about caring about yourself and loving yourself.

What does it look like when you love yourself?

Usually when people are physically abusing their body, there’s a mental and emotional part of that. So it’s one thing if you’re going on a vacation and you’re eating wonderful food because you’re just enjoying your space.

Or whether you’re eating sugar and ice cream at night because your marriage sucks.

 There’s  how and why you’re doing what you’re doing matters as much as what you’re doing.

I believe that the intention of what you’re doing will affect how your body takes it in. 

Joe Winger: 

As we wrap up Vivian, tell us all the ways to learn more and to get in touch with you?

Vivian Eisenstadt: 

For more information, you can go to www.VivieTherapy com. 

You can also reach us by phone at 310 623 4444. We are also at VivieTherapy on Instagram, Vivi Therapy on Facebook, Vivi Therapy on Twitter,

I also created a word for pain free. Vivie.

 

Ordering Chinese food in Los Angeles? HungryPanda want to Help

Ordering Chinese food in Los Angeles? HungryPanda want to Help

Leveraging their industry-leading delivery services, the HungryPanda app seamlessly connects food, people and culture.

HungryPanda goes further with Asian food culture

The ‘Golden Panda Award’ is a symbol of excellence in the global overseas Chinese food industry, setting the highest standard for culinary achievement.

It stands as the world’s exclusive international honor specifically dedicated to recognizing restaurant businesses in the food delivery sector. This prestigious award embodies commitment to promoting and celebrating outstanding achievements in the realm of international Chinese cuisine.

Kitty Liu from HungryPanda

Kitty Lu from HungryPanda

Joe Winger: 

We are here today with Kitty Lu from HungryPanda. 

Help me get to know HungryPanda.co 

Kitty Lu: 

HungryPanda serves a niche market for Asian communities.  We were established in 2017, founded in the UK when our CEO and the founding team were studying in Nottingham University.

The platform was born from a very simple, but compelling need experienced first hand, by the founders as international students, struggling to find authentic Chinese food in the UK. 

From that outset, HungryPanda started to really focus sharply on that particular niche market, tailoring our user experience with Chinese interfaces to overcome culture and language barriers.

That’s how our app got started.  We are very lucky enough to be growing really fast within the past six years. 

Now we expanded into 10 different countries, including: US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, and Singapore.

Hungry Panda

Joe Winger: 

Different cultures, maybe different ways people use their phones, different apps.

What challenges has HungryPanda faced as you enter the very competitive North America market?

Kitty Lu:

Local regulatory requirements that we need to meet.  Every country, every region has different regulations, and especially with food delivery.  

The U.S. is actually coming out with all the new regulations lately, therefore that’s one of the challenges as well.

Also intense competition from established local and global brands. 

When we entered the North American market, Door Dash, Uber, the giants, had already occupied the mass market.  In the Asian food delivery market, we also have competitors like, Chow Bus and others.

Obviously we were the new brand going to the market. 

Therefore, that’s the main challenge that we faced. But, we were actually quite confident and, lucky enough because we have a very good team structure. All of our team members have experience opening markets in different countries.

So unlike Uber or DoorDash, when they are opening a new market, for example, North American market and Australian market is very different. People have different consumer behavior. But for us the good thing is, although we are in different countries, we are serving the same type of people, which is the  overseas Asian customers, therefore the consumer behavior is rather similar.

Although we have the challenge, it’s easier for us to actually dive in and then adapt in a rapid rhythm.

HungryPanda

HungryPanda

Joe Winger:

Is North America the toughest audience when it comes to regulations?

Kitty Lu: 

With regulations, we’re talking more towards the drivers, how do we protect them?

Obviously there are minimum standards. Because what we call the “gig economy” is still considered a new industry, no matter what part of the world.  

North America, Australia, the UK, all the countries are coming out with new regulations to actually protect this particular industry.

We are all at the same stage, growing from a new industry to a more mature industry.

Joe Winger: 

Your company released a food trends report from 2023.  What’s the biggest takeaway? 

Kitty Lu: 

Consumer interest in the authenticity and quality in food.  

When you talk about Chinese food in North America or  the UK, the first thing you think of is actually Cantonese food because [it] arrived first.

Now we can see all the hot Sichuan hot pots and malatang, all these are more modern and, trendy or more northern cuisine start to really get in the picture. popularity. 

This is something that’s blowing our mind as well.

It’s a strong signal to the food industry to really focus on the authenticity, offering high quality ingredients. This is something I think is actually quite interesting.

Joe Winger: 

Talking about trends, anything was surprising?

Kitty Lu: 

The most popular category is definitely Boba tea.  Now, as.

As we can see the hot pot, stuff actually, coming on top of, all this fried chicken, bubble tea and stuff. That suggests our local consumers start to really adapt into a more authentic flavor Chinese food instead of people always ordering honey chicken, spring side pork. 

They learn to really understand, oh, that’s you know, Chinese people eat in China, they really start to learn and understand and admire about the spice actually in the food.

This is something actually I find quite interesting.

Joe Winger: 

That’s really a big change. 

Based on your 2023 report, any predictions for 2024?

Kitty Lu: 

The rise in the family demands, so AOV ( average order value) keeps growing. Food delivery is not growing accommodating only for one person, two person, but it’s starting to expand, for more towards a family’s demands. 

We can anticipate the age group that actually accepting or keep using the food delivery services actually start to grow and expand as well. 

Also predicting new services for delivery companies. We can actually see the trend that many people start to order.

Pick up orders from the app and you can go straight to the restaurant to pick it up without waiting.  It’s helps you jump the queue.

When you order a pickup it’s actually cheaper than ordering at the shop itself.

Therefore, this is actually one of the trends that we can see. It’s actually start to grow.

Joe Winger: 

How do your users want the experience to go for them?

Kitty Lu:

During the pandemic, everything had to be contactless. Therefore the pickup feature was actually created during that period and blossomed afterwards.

Joe Winger: 

Now you just mentioned the pandemic. Your company learned a lot from that experience, like how much packaging matters. 

Can you talk a little bit more about what you learned about packaging?

Kitty Lu: 

First thing we need to discuss is the difference between Asian food and Western food. 

When it comes to Chinese food, generally it’s very heavy on sauces. Therefore, restaurants have to elevate the packaging standards to ensure the food quality can remain consistent.

When you order Chinese food, you expect it to still be hot, to have the best of flavor. Iit often [comes] with soup and if the packaging is not good, it actually leaks. 

That has always been a challenge that Asian food delivery faces.

China created a new trend with laminate packaging to make sure all the packaging is sealed and kept warm. That helped the whole industry globally to maintain higher standards.

Joe Winger: 

There’s nothing worse than when you get the package to your house and it’s broken,  ripped, it’s spilled.

The superior packaging isn’t about looking pretty necessarily. It’s about keeping your food secure.

Kitty Lu: 

That’s right.  Another thing we have to consider is [being] environmental friendly.

The Chinese food industry has been blamed for using too much plastic to begin with. Therefore, the new packaging uses aluminum.

Joe Winger: 

So your HungryPanda app itself has a lot of features. Can you let’s talk through some of the most popular features?

Kitty Lu: 

Comparing with other apps, one thing we find quite convenient is that on the front page we have a very full restaurant list with tabs: by distance, by popularity, by discounts, by reviews, by delivery times. So it’s very easy for you to access. 

Other apps  have the categories but limited restaurants. 

Joe Winger: 

What’s the best way for an Asian restaurant to make the most of this opportunity of this new food trend?

Kitty Lu:

I think In the age of technology leveraging online platforms for visibility, working with a food delivery platform is definitely one of the ways to help them really engage with consumers.

When we talk about foodies, they are young, they’re always on social media. They’re always online. Therefore, promoting yourself in front of them is very important. 

We use our channels to really promote different restaurants to help them to expand their reach within their comfort zone.

Joe Winger: 

What’s your favorite food? What would you order on your app?

Kitty Lu: 

My favorite food is [the same as] the trend report.  Sichuan malatang.

So that shows the report’s authenticity.  The audience like the food like a real Chinese person.

The reason why I like the malatang is because not only is it delicious, but it’s actually quite healthy as well.

It’s a hot spicy soup, but you put in fresh vegetables, fresh meat, it’s like you’re cooking your own hot pot

And it’s a very balanced and nutritious meal. Flavorful when you put all these different ingredients into one pot of soup. Brings you more flavors and it’s very fast [to make].

Joe Winger: 

What is HungryPanda’s user coverage look like?

Kitty Lu: 

We have about 30 cities covered in the U. S. Obviously, New York, L.A., all major cities itself. I would be more than happy to provide you with the full on city list. We’re in Canada as well and just over 80 cities all around the globe.

Joe Winger: 

For the audience who’s watching and listening right now, what’s the best next step? How can they enjoy this app? 

Kitty Lu: 

If they haven’t downloaded it yet, give it a try.

For new users, we actually have new user vouchers available for them to have a few free deliveries. 

You can order to deliver, you can order to pick up it’s very convenient to use, very simple.  Obviously we have a much wider supply for Asian food.

Therefore, if you are a Asian food lover, you should have HungryPanda on your phone.

 

About the Author
Joe Wehinger (nicknamed Joe Winger) has written for over 20 years about the business of lifestyle and entertainment. Joe is an entertainment producer, media entrepreneur, public speaker, and C-level consultant who owns businesses in entertainment, lifestyle, tourism and publishing. He is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, member of the Directors Guild of America, International Food Travel Wine Authors Association, WSET Level 2 Wine student, WSET Level 2 Cocktail student, member of the LA Wine Writers. Email to: Joe@FlavRReport.com
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