Smorgasburg is New York's biggest and most competitive food market, with a low acceptance rate of 8.5 - 11.4%--almost as hard as getting into Brown University with its 9.6% acceptance rate. I first met Carson Yiu, owner of Outer Borough, when I was scanning the 100 Smorgasburg food vendors trying to decide what to eat. Outer Borough caught my eye with its Taiwanese beef rolls--crispy scallion pancake rolled around marinated beef shank, scallions, cilantro, cucumber and secret sauce. One bite in, and I was hooked. Over the next few days I was craving Outer Borough, so I looked them up on Yelp to see if they had a location somewhere in the city. I couldn't find an address or a telephone number--just a Facebook Page. I commented on their wall, "Do you guys have any week day appearances??" When they replied, "Not right now!" I was crushed. Needless to say, I returned to Smorgasburg the following weekend to get my fix of Outer Borough.
It was essential I included a foodie in my launch of Maker's Lane. Some of the most notable Asian American entrepreneurs in mainstream media right now are culinary creatives and restauranteurs, including Eddie Huang, owner of BaoHaus and inspiration behind ABC's new sitcom Fresh Off The Boat, and Roy Choi, owner of LA's infamous Kogi Trucks. Initially, I thought Smorgasburg was just a weekend gig for most of the vendors, many of them have brick and mortars around the city. After spending time with Carson and witnessing his daily grind, I realized that Smorgasburg is a full time gig requiring a week of preparation and then an intense weekend of selling to customers. With the constant flow of foot traffic at Smorgasburg, vendors serve all their business in 2 long days versus spreading it out across a week from a storefront. It was fascinating to learn how the emergence of food markets and other event-based opportunities in New York are making it possible for food entrepreneurs to create a sustainable business outside of the restaurant route.
When I asked Carson to be featured as an entrepreneur for Maker's Lane, I knew at the very least I would get a good story about one of my favorite things to eat at the most competitive food market in NYC. After filming him, I was thrilled to discover such a powerful and inspiring story about self-love, family, representing your culture and overcoming rejection. As Carson describes in the episode, his goal is to use Outer Borough as a platform to tell his story to the world.