Interview with Caroline Choe, creator of Create & Plate
Create & Plate has a mission to promote unity through art and food education — they can be vehicles for collaboration and have the power to bridge cultures and differences. In cultivating both, C&P fosters engagement in the arts and food, highlights the creatives who practice their work, all the while inviting audiences to join and partake.
Caroline Choe is passionate about people, art, food and education. A cherished thinker, maker, healer in her community, she is an ambassador between the many communities she moves between, always with a heart to connect and inspire. Caroline and her husband Eric travel around the country highlighting art and meeting artists across the nation in her quirky and down-to-earth video series, “The Illustrated Journal.” She also has a knack for bringing people, art and food together through her Palette for Palate events under the umbrella of Create & Plate. Being adverse to cooking myself, I have been fortunate to learn how to debone a chicken and make a Hainanese chicken dish under her patient and skillful tutelage. Here, she shares with us that we can all make, communicate, and celebrate together.
Judy: Why did you start Create &Plate? How do art and food come together as vehicles for unity and education?
Caroline: It really did just have an organic formation. I’d been classically trained throughout my life in art, music, and dance, and cooked a lot with and for my family and friends. After working professionally as a teacher for over a decade, you learn a lot about what makes people click in their learning. People are eager to know more about how to make things and it taps into a great sense of stewardship as well. I’d been fortunate to be able to contribute a lot to the art, movement, and cooking curriculums in classrooms; more people started asking about how and where they could see or know more about things they could make. So, I started documenting and recording the places I’d go, or the things I’d cook in my kitchen. When you have a lot of things you want and need to share, you invite people over. Everyone in my parties always came from different walks of life — it was pretty apparent that the power of both went hand in hand and I wanted to harness that to greater potential.
Judy: I love your heart to bridge difference by bringing people and communities together through art and food. We’ve known each other for almost 2 decades and I have witnessed many of your creative endeavors, choreographing dance routines, creating and teaching art, organizing pop-up dinners to name a few. How have your travels across the country and conversations with artists and creative communities impacted you as a 2nd generation Korean-American artist and entrepreneur?
Caroline: You take away something with every experience, cliché as that may sound. The one gift I can truthfully say I’ve been given in life is that I’m not necessarily afraid of meeting people, and I’m hoping that might encourage the journey a bit more every time. In traveling a lot, you realize just how much we all have in common — that we really all do want the same things for our lives. How we approach getting them, however, is where we differ. That said, setting up a meal or being able to have a time in life where people can just sit down and make something together, leaving it all at the door for those moments, those are the ones I think we need more of and it’s my pleasure to help provide those opportunities, moments, and messages in our busy lives!
Judy: You’ve written pieces for publications featuring other entrepreneurs, such as this article for Edible on Dorit and David Nahmias, currently the sole producers of mahia in the U.S. I love figs and was excited to learn that mahia is a fig-based spirit, that it’s recipe is an ancient and secretive tradition passed down over the generations among Moroccan Jews. How is storytelling critical to your work and the development of your ideas and voice?
Caroline: When I started writing, it was almost the perfect way of merging my artist life and my cooking life. The opportunity had come up once to write a piece for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and it took a life of its own from there. Every maker has a story, and the story behind their motivation is what I’m most interested in. On one interview, one of the guys asked if I was a restaurant critic and it’s just not the kind of work I’m personally interested in. Why? because someone puts their life into what they do, and however they go about doing it is their choice. What I hope to push more for in writing about them is their message. Yes, passion is the foundation to a lot of this work but their commitment to their hard work is what I want to know more about. In the end, many of them are devoted to the same cause, walking the same common ground, but going about it in their different personal journeys.
Judy: Here’s a thinker/maker/healer question: What is one thought C&P is ruminating on at the moment, the collaboration you have been most proud to make, and what is healing for you?
Caroline: If I had to pick one of my proudest yearly ventures, it would definitely be our Pre-Thanksgiving Feast. We’ve put it on for the past ten-years, and it’s always been a different crowd of folks who end up filling the room with a lot of joy. They create art, sitting around eating and drinking together, we get a crazy game going that involves everyone. I hope it drops certain social pressures and encourages people to just be with everyone. I’m always proudest when I’m able to collaborate with or for a school, or if someone tells me they used one of my written pieces or recipes for a class lesson. I consider it the highest honor.
My healing always comes from proactively making and exploring, pretty much channeling it out to creating something new. I hope it will provide the same for others, too.
Judy: Bringing it all together, what are your hopes and vision as Create & Plate continues to harness the power of art and food to bring people together?
Caroline: One thing I’m still very much rooting for is that we will continue to stress the importance of both food and arts education, advocate to giving them both the financial support and attention to their value, and showing how they hold the keys to the communication we need. These things can’t just apply to one socioeconomic dynamic, can’t just be a privilege. My hope is to encourage us all to keep bringing our ideas and get to know each other. It’s a crazy world to navigate right now, but in making something intended for all, it will offer up one of the bigger ways to use our voices.
Judy: May you continue to thrive in your creative endeavors toward cultivating community. Thank you Caroline for sharing your thoughts!