First Annual Big Bao Competition Embodies Millennial Dining

Luv Me Tenders’ “Kung Pao Chicken Bao”

Last Wednesday, the First Annual Big Bao Competition brought together over 300 Houston foodies, bloggers, chefs, and restauranteurs to feast upon baos created by an impressive line-up of Houston’s culinary trendsetters. Names ranging from renowned Peli Peli and SaltAir Seafood Kitchen to rising pop-up and home-based chefs such as Cuc Lam and Sherman Yeung all partook in the event. With Pop-up kitchen and food truck popularity on the rise in recent years, the Big Bao Competition proved that these fresh faces could hold their own against brick-and-mortar legends on a level playing field.

Peli Peli’s Chef Paul serving up his People’s Choice winner “Huguenot Bao”

Chefs prepared 300 servings of signature dishes served on fluffy Chinese gua bao. Standout plates included glazed kung pao fried chicken bao by Chef Jason Hill of Luv Me Tenders food truck, melt-in-your-mouth Latin beef barbacoa by Chef Rishi Singh of Batanga and spicy Thai curry brisket from Chef Kik Painter of Street to Kitchen Catering.

First Place winner Wokker Texas Ranger

Standalone food truck Wokker Texas Ranger took home Judge’s first place pick for their smoked and braised pork shoulder Holy Mole Bao and pop-up chef Cuc Lam (@cucinhouston) tied for second with Southern Goods for her Baos de las Carnitas.

Pop-ups hosted in local hotspots and traveling food trucks have given restaurant entrepreneurs a chance to build capital and perfect unique ideas all over town without the overhead costs of a restaurant. Food competitions like the Big Bao Battle give these new names greater exposure by bringing their individual fan bases together to try the latest trends alongside restaurant classics.

Chef Sherman Yeung assembling his “Tonkatsu Bao”

The judge’s panel also reflected a new wave of millennial dining culture. Self-proclaimed “Houston Foodie” and well known Instagram Blogger Duc Hoang (@fooodieelicious) sat next to Fat Bao chef Pak Tsui and Hoi Fung, owner of classic Fung’s Kitchen.

23 year old Duc is representative of social media diners who have become popular for posting pictures of “foodporn” eats to promote local restaurants. The influence of these food bloggers on the restaurant scene is not to be underestimated. In 2016, 61% of diners surveyed bypassed critic reviews and found new places to eat through social media and 44% admitted to regularly taking pictures of meals to post online (source).

Just Cuc It! Cuc Lam’s Bao de las Carnitas

From food truck winners to food blogger judges, the First Annual Big Bao Competition gave Houston a look at fresh-faced forces who are finding success in the era of fast casual dining.

For insight into what we’re cooking up Dindr, you can check out what we’re bringing to the table on Instagram.