Foods & Culinary

How Chef Eric Sze is changing the game for Taiwanese food in NYC

“‘Authenticity’ means shit to me,” says Eric Sze, Eater New Guard 2021 member. “What is authentic to me doesn’t mean it’s authentic to you, even if you grew up in Taiwan.” Sze uses this philosophy to guide his delicious Taiwan-inspired creations in his restaurant 886 in New York’s East Village. “Whatever I like and whatever I want to serve is authentic to me and authentic to us.”

Sze’s talent for blending traditional Taiwanese dishes and flavors with what New Yorkers (including himself) are about to be eating is fully demonstrated as he tests recipes for his upcoming second restaurant in Brooklyn. For this new menu, he’s trying his own spin with spicy stir-fried pork blood rice cakes, Taiwanese Baijiu garlic sausage, and a boneless whole roast chicken. “It is very important to me to present chickens raised by Chinese farmers,” he says. “It’s a different taste from chicken. The meat isn’t the “conventional” tender, but it’s still delicate and tasty. “

Sze takes great care in helping Chinatown suppliers shop for his meat and noodles in local markets, and building relationships with local butchers who understand his vision. “It’s very important to me to shop right at Chinatown because it was a place I always went when I was homesick while studying when I first came to the US,” he says. “It gave me a level of comfort and the more time I spend in New York, the more connected I feel to the Chinatown community.”

Regarding advice on owning a restaurant, Chef Sze says he would tell his younger self to trust himself. “I think this is a very important lesson. Because for the longest time I’ve been thinking about what other people would want, and it all really has to do with being authentic myself. ”

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