Marvin Yueh’s Top 5 Podcasts Hosted by Asian Americans in 2015

Marvin Yueh is the Associate Director for the Kollaboration Global Organization, Managing Editor for the Kollaboration Blog, Host/Producer of the KollabCast, and Producer of Kollaboration’s video projects. In between those responsibilities, he manages to squeeze in time for food, sleep, and the occasional trip, and yup he really did just write his own intro in third person.

It’s no secret that I love podcasts. As an Angeleno, I spend a lot of time in my car, and I’ve found that having people talk at me is a great way to pass the time. That’s part of the reason I was excited to launch the KollabCast this year, throwing my own hat into this emerging media format. Besides the KollabCast, 2015 has been a really great year for podcasts featuring Asian American hosts and it’s been great having more APA perspectives out in the world for people to consume. Here’s my top 5 (in no particular order) podcasts that I think followers of Kollaboration should check out!

1. Bullet Train


Ada Tseng, the mastermind behind the Haikus with Hotties calendar and Managing Editor of Asia Pacific Arts, hosts this fun and informational podcast that launched earlier this year. Ada provides narration on an interesting topic in Asian American pop culture, ranging from gender representation all the way to dating sims. Along the way, we hear excerpts from interviews with other subject matter and pop culture experts while Ada refuses to apologize for anything. We’re still waiting for episode 5, but if you have a few hours to kill, you can’t go wrong with this podcast.

2. What Just Happened


David Chang started as a fan of podcasts like Serial, eventually deciding to launch his own. The premise is simple. Pick a topic David wants to learn more about, and then research the crap out of it. The result is a very informative, easy to listen to podcast that leaves listeners better informed. David’s clear articulation and neutral perspective is a breath of fresh air in today’s media environment. Need a primer on the “Black Lives Matter” and California’s common core so you can sound smart at parties? Give What Just Happened a listen!

3. Drunk Monk


Re-watch podcasts, where pocasters recap already departed shows episode by episode in real time,  have started to become quite popular as streaming services have started to bulk up their TV catalog. This podcast, which recaps the Tony Shaloub neurotic detective show Monk, is hosted by improv partners Keiko Agena (of Gilmore Girls fame) and Will Choi (who had never watched Monk prior to the podcast). As the title suggests, Adult beverages are consumed in the course of recording, and hijinks ensue. You won’t need to even like Monk to listen to these two riff on each other.

4. Good Muslim Bad Muslim

The Good Muslim Bad Muslim podcast started with a hashtag conversation discussing what makes a good and bad Muslim in the eyes of society. Writer/activist Taz Ahmed and actor/comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh host this monthly podcast where they fearlessly shatter preconceptions on what a Muslim American, and specifically a Muslim American woman, can be. With some comedy, some social commentary, and a whole lot of attitude, this podcast is a refreshing look into a uniquely American story that isn’t seen much in mainstream media.

5. Explain Things to Me


Ever wonder what a professional Santas does or how some people remember stuff better than others? Internet personality Anna Akana and her partner Brad Gage host this podcast where they find an expert to explain these things to them. The result is an always fascinating conversation where listeners learn about cool stuff happening in the world of entertainment, science, art, and more from awesome and interesting people who made them their life’s work.

Honorable Mentions

Of course these aren’t the only podcasts out there hosted by Asian Americans. I’ve limited my top 5 list to Podcasts that launched this year, but there are a few other great shows in my podcatcher hosted by Asian Americans that I wanted to give a shout out to!

This is Only a Test


The official podcast of, This is Only a Test is an awesome podcast about tech, pop culture, and science hosted by Norman Chan that’s been running for 332 episodes (that’s almost 5 years). This was the second podcast that I started to listen to regularly and it’s been fascinating watching Tested go from an indie tech website to being attached to Adam Savage and Jamie Hyman of Mythbusters fame. One of the founding members, Norm Chan recently ascended from co-host to host when longtime host and co-founder Will Smith (the tech editor, not the actor) decided to leave Tested to pursue a personal startup project in VR.

Sound and Fury


The official podcast of Angry Asian Man, this is an interview-style podcast a la Marc Maron, where host Phil Yu (the eponymous Angry Asian Man) conducts a intimate one-on-one interview with esteemed members of the APA community from what one can only assume is his kitchen table. Phil’s been in the game a long time and it’s telling how much respect his guests have for him. Listen to this podcast to learn more about the man behind the blog as well as interesting stories from his amazing guests.

Pop Rocket


Pop Rocket, part of the NPR affiliated Maximum Fun network, is a podcast that brings you hot takes on current pop culture trends and news from a variety of minority perspectives. While not exactly hosted by Asian Americans, Pop Rocket features one of our community’s coolest (and smoothest) voices in Oliver Wang as one of their regular panelists. An academic, author, and DJ, Oliver brings a cool and collected persona to an otherwise fiery panel, and always seems to have the hottest of jams to contribute during their weekly “What is your Jam” segment. Host Guy Branum and the two other regular panelists Wynter Mitchell and Margaret Wappler are no slouches neither, each bringing a unique perspective from their own backgrounds and areas of expertise, and listeners are always left with a more well-rounded understanding of current pop culture issues.


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This is a shameless plug, but it’s my list so deal with it. The KollabCast, hosted by myself and Kollaboration Executive Director Christine Minji Chang, is a podcast about pop culture and social commentary from an Asian American Perspective. We talk about a wide variety of topics and it often turns out to be interesting. You should listen in sometime!


Nicole Arca’s Top 5 Moments of 2015

Nicole Arca is a writer for the Kollab Blog and current 4th year media and communications student at UC Berkeley. Originally from West Covina (in the heart of the SGV/626), Nicole has a passion for Asian American issues and a pen that spits hot fire. Check out her list of her top 5 moments in Asian America!

From institutional recognition to representation on broadcast TV, 2015 was a pretty important year for Asian Americans. But I’m hoping that my favorite FilAm artists (featured in this list) will hit the airwaves or the silver screen in 2016!


24th FPAC (Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture) at El Pueblo – At the 24th FPAC in November, tons of FilAm artists, like Odessa Kane,Karen JoyceManila Rice slayed the stage or showcased dope art. Traktivist was there spinning some beats as well! Overall, FPAC was just a really good time.


Vincent Rodriguez III in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend -Filipino American actors taking a leading role on national TV? What a time to be alive.


First School In the Nation to be Named After Filipino Heroes – A school in Union City was the first to be named after Filipino-Americans – a momentous moment for representation and institutional recognition of FilAms everywhere.


Master of None – Aziz Ansari touches on some pretty important subjects in a palatable way that makes this show super easy to binge watch.


Bambu’s The Comrade Sessions EP – Announced stealthily in the music video for his song “Comrades” (off his album Party Worker), this EP is required listening.


Lily Rugo’s Top 5 Asian American Entertainers of 2015

Our next year-end list comes from Kollab Blog Associate Editor, Lily Rugo. Lily is a 2nd year journalism student at Emerson College and a member of the Kollaboration Boston Team. As one of our youngest editors, she offers unique perspectives to the blog team. In addition to Kollaboration, she’s also been published in USA Today and the multiple Emerson publications.

In 2015, I felt that Asian Americans finally started to enter mainstream media, change the game, and take names. Fresh Off the Boat started this wave earlier this year, and I’m happy to see it spread out to new media, streaming video, books, TV and movies. This year more and more Asian American figures became everyday names and played roles that went beyond old stereotypes. Here are my top 5 rising Asian American names who helped Asian Americans break through in 2015.

5) Eugene Yang & Ashley Perez, BuzzFeed

As BuzzFeed begins to create more original videos and content, Yang and Perez have become some of the most recognizable faces for trendy videos, social causes, and more BuzzFeed content. Perez and Yang are silly, honest, and relatable and made waves in new media during 2015.

4) Mindy Kaling, Why Not Me? and The Mindy Project

Releasing her second book and bringing The Mindy Project to streaming service Hulu, Kaling had a pretty great 2015. As a fan, I usually think Kaling goes unrecognized for the work she does in the entertainment industry, but in 2015 that changed. Releasing Why Not Me? played a big part in that and it’s nice to see Kaling’s rise and talent getting noticed.

3) Aziz Ansari, Master of None

Mention Master of None, and the first question is “Have you watched it?”. One of the most popular shows of the year, Master of None made news with its cast, story lines, and how it resonated with millennials. I heard so many stories about how after the second episode, “Parents,” my friends were emotional and called home. Ansari made headlines for creating a show that was much needed, and shouldn’t have taken so long to get.

2) Steven Yeun, The Walking Dead

I don’t even watch The Walking Dead, yet I knew that something huge had gone down when fans thought Yeun’s Glenn Rhee died. From AngryAsianMan to the New York Times, the show’s plot twist made headlines and spoke to how important Yeun’s character was to the show and its audience.

1) Constance Wu & Randall Park, Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat’s debut earlier year created a lot of buzz and kicked off 2015 as the year for breakout Asian American talent. Despite some controversy and tweaks in the first season, I think the show’s second season really established its presence on TV. The kids of Fresh Off the BoatHudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, and Ian Chen— all do great work on the show, but for me it’s Wu and Park who complete it. Now Park and Wu are up for Critics’ Choice Awards, working the late night circuit, and on the cover of magazines. Only on the up and up from here, I hope Fresh Off the Boat is around to stay.

2015 was a big year for Asian Americans, entering the mainstream online, on TV, in movies, and more. Hopefully this momentum won’t stop and only grows until names like these become part of the norm.


Lauren Lola’s Top 5 Positive Moments of 2015

This year, the Kollab Blog is closing out the year by asking our editors (and a few friends) to call out 5 things they’d like to recognize in the landscape of Asian America. Our first list comes from our Associate Editor, Lauren Lola, a writer and novelist based out of California’s Bay Area.

2015 oversaw an increase in better representation of Asians and Asian Americans in the mainstream media. At the same time, we also had a turnout of viral videos and momentous happenings that weren’t scripted in advanced or, at the very least, expected. With the year drawing to a close, in no particular order, let’s look back on the top 5 positive moments of 2015.

1. The 6-year-old girl who drops some wisdom for recently divorced mom.

If this little girl ever decides to run for president one day, she already has my vote. In the wake of her parents’ divorce, she sits her mom down for a very serious talk about how she wants her and her dad to be friends and how she simply wants everyone to get along and smile. This girl defies what it means to be a peacekeeper and the 7 million views this video has since received can only encourage the likelihood that many viewers agree.

2. Two fans ask J.J. Abrams about potential Star Wars Asian characters at Comic-Con panel.

Ever since the first teaser trailer dropped last year, Star Wars: The Force Awakens has become one of the most anticipated films of the year. Naturally, the franchise would be featured at this past summer’s San Diego Comic-Con and as one would at these panels, questions of high anticipation would be asked. Two fans came up to the mic at one point and rather than prodding George Lucas’s replacement for what he can reveal, they instead addressed the very prevalent issue about diversity in movies and asked if we can anticipate Asian characters in the film at all.

3. 5-year-old boy reenacts Bruce Lee nunchuck scene from The Game of Death.

If Bruce Lee were still alive today, then this kid may as well have him on a run for his money. With The Game of Death playing in the background, complete with Lee’s iconic yellow jumpsuit, the boy performs the nunchuck scene from the film, in perfectly precise precision. The video has gotten over 9 million views since first being posted in May and if you see it, you’ll see why. The boy’s got SKILLS!


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4. Ruthie Ann Miles accepts Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

At the 69th Annual Tony Awards, the revival of Roger and Hammerstein’s The King and I brought in four wins that night; one of which went to Broadway newbie Ruthie Ann Miles for her role as Lady Thiang. Evidently moved to have won, she turns to her iPhone (“Please recycle”) as she reads out in a shaky voice her witty acceptance speech and thanks the people who have helped her get to this point in her career. It’s rare to see Asian and Asian American actors on Broadway, and so to see one other than Lea Salonga win a Tony was remarkable to see.

5. “They might have guns, but we have flowers.”

The world was blatantly shocked when the terror attacks in Paris took place in November. Within the days following, flowers and candles appeared near the places where the shootings took place, including outside the Bataclan Theatre. In a moment captured by Le Petit Journal, a father tells his young son that there’s no need to move away because France is their home, and despite the violence brought upon them, love will always prevail. This guy definitely wins Father of the Year in my book, for what he said brought forth a light in darkness.


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Ruth + the Library – The Green Room

“This edition of the Kollaboration Green Room features Ruth + the Library, an up-and-coming band based in Los Angeles, combining funky, jazzy beats with the unique vocal styling of lead singer, Ruth Cho. They are currently in the running for the Grammy Amplifier competition so if you like what you hear, send them some hits at

Hear more from Ruth + the Library at and visit their YouTube channel at

“”Who Knew that Love””

Special thanks to Zenith Division for their assistance in making this video.

Five Lessons Learned from the San Diego Asian Film Festival Buzzfeed Panel

Back in November, a panel featuring three members of Buzzfeed, directors Eugene Lee Yang and Abe Forman- Greenwald, and senior business analyst Mallory Wang was held at UC San Diego for the 16th Annual San Diego Asian Film Festival (held annually by Pacific Arts Movement). The panel, moderated by actress and internet personality Anna Akana, explored Buzzfeed’s success in internet video over the past two years from both creative and business perspectives.

Here are five lessons that we learned from this panel:

Abe Forman- Greenwald, Mallory Wang and Eugene Lee Yang at SDAFF – Photo by Jose Bucud, Pacific Arts Movement

1. Buzzfeed is always learning

Every time you watch a Buzzfeed video or read a Buzzfeed list, they’re learning a little bit more about what kind of content people want to see. They test everything, from who’s in the video all the way to the way the titles are worded, and they iterate to test theories and patterns. While it sounds scary and big brother-like, it’s actually what led them to realize the demand for culturally diverse programming. Thanks metrics!

2. What all the colored Buzzfeed channels mean

The color titles for Buzzfeed’s many channels represent the general themes of the videos in each. Violet represents “You”, character driven videos celebrating what makes people unique, Blue represents “Science”, and the cool stuff that occurs in our world, and Yellow represents Identity (nope, it’s not yellow as in Asian people), a celebration of culture that originally began with female-focused videos.

3. “If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say” started a movement

It’d be an understatement to say that “If Asians Said the Stuff White People Say” was just a popular video from Buzzfeed. The company’s first racially-focused video was a groundbreaking achievement that set the tone for their future work. Originally inspired by a Facebook post by Jeff Yang (pioneering APA writer and father of Fresh Off the Boat star Hudson Yang), the internal Buzzfeed brainstorming thread exploded as the concept “opened a floodgate that was begging to be opened.” After the success of the viral video, Buzzfeed does what it does best and iterated on the idea to what we see today, expanding to other minority group and exposing audiences to alternative perceptions.

4. Buzzfeed will never run out of ideas

In just a few years, Buzzfeed Motion Pictures has grown from 20 to more than 200 producers! With each of their producers being encouraged to create their own content, and the quick turnaround on projects (many with only a 2 person crew and $300 budget), Buzzfeed isn’t worried about the well running dry anytime soon. In fact, Buzzfeed is expanding its production scope by developing scripted content, social media focused video, and even documentary features.

5. Advice for young creatives

The panel offered this solid advice to up-and-coming creators, “keep making stuff!” A lot of the most popular content produced at Buzzfeed occurred because opportunity collided with the drive to create. “Parents imitate their children” came to be because Eugene’s mom just happened to be in town, and led to parents of Buzzfeed staff being involved in more of their content. In addition to taking advantage of opportunities, it’s also important for creators to find unique perspectives from their own point of view. It may be harder, but the crew challenges up-and-comers to “figure out your voice and then push as hard as you can!”

The Buzzfeed Panel @ Atkinson Hall, UC San Diego – Photo by Jose Bucud, Pacific Arts Movement


Cover photo credit: Epix Productions

Five Dream “Kollaborations”

At Kollaboration, our objective has always been to come together as a community and battle negative stereotypes and the status quo via “empowerment through entertainment.”  Over the years in getting to know the numerous artists we’ve been honored to work with, we’ve seen a number of collaborations come about through the various mediums in the entertainment industry; from dancers choreographing a piece together, to stand-up comedians putting on a show, and musicians working together to make an awesome new song.  Of the collaborations that have taken place, there are always those that are merely dreams at the moment, in hopes of one day becoming real.

We recently reached out to a few entertainers in the community and asked them the following: If you could collaborate with anyone at all that you haven’t collaborated with yet, who would it be and why?


Christine Chen at the LA Pacific Asian Film Festival - Photo by Steven Lam
Christine Chen at the LA Pacific Asian Film Festival – Photo by Steven Lam
Christine Chen, Film Producer (Wong Fu Productions)
My dream collaborator(s) would be both Bubzbeauty (Lindy Tsang) and … OPRAH! Sorry I couldn’t just pick one. And since it’s DREAM collaborator, I had to aim high like OPRAH. If you can’t tell I’m super excited about them both. Both women represent everything true, genuine and pure in trying to fulfill one’s purpose in life. I’m a firm believer striving to fulfill what you were meant to do in this life should be your highest priority in life. Whether that purpose is to make videos on YouTube to connect with thousands if not millions of people, be the best parent to your 3 children, or having a TV show like “The Oprah Show” and help share all kinds of people’s stories so others can take away and learn more about themselves through the paths of others. And even though Bubzbeauty and Oprah have reached success on so many levels, they continue to push themselves to be better and seek even more ways to help others.


Jenny Yang, Comedian
Mindy Kaling!  She’s badass and a trailblazer and I want to raise my funny to her level of dopeness.

Jenny Yang - Photo by Jim Seida / NBC News
Jenny Yang – Photo by Jim Seida / NBC News

Dan AKA Dan at Kollaboration Star 2014 - Photo by John Zhang
Dan AKA Dan at Kollaboration Star 2014 – Photo by John Zhang
Dan AKA Dan, Rapper
Dream collaboration is with Malaysian artist Yuna! She’s amazing – super talented – I’ve been following her for a long time.  If not her…. a music video by the amazing Spike Jonze would be incredible.
Samantha Futerman, Actress
Jenny Yang!! It’s not everyday you come across such a funny, talented woman like that!

Samantha Futerman at Kollaboration Star 2014
Samantha Futerman at Kollaboration Star 2014 – Photo by Rahuk Alfar

The Kinjaz at Kollaboration Star 2015 – photo by Jimmy Page
Ben Chung, Dancer (Kinjaz)
I don’t know if this is a “dead or alive” question, so I’m just going to go with the biggest influencer in my life from childhood to present day…and that is the legendary Bruce Lee. This man’s philosophy of movement transcends way beyond just martial arts, but it is applicable to life holistically. He spoke on being like the nature of water. Water flows…it pushes…it receives…it is both forceful and yielding. This concept absolutely applies to the way I’ve learned to receive and move to music. When music hits my ears, however my body receives and moves to it in that moment, without thought…that is the most honest and free expression of movement. Bruce is the truth!


Pressed but not Crushed – Cafe Dulce’s James Choi Builds Community One Cup at a Time in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo

Amidst the hustle and bustle of families, tourists, and people on their lunch breaks mingling in the open-air Japanese Village Plaza, I sat down with Café Dulce founder James Choi to learn more about the man who, against formidable odds, built up one of the most popular cafes in Little Tokyo.

Café Dulce boasts a mouthwatering spectrum of in-house baked treats (who doesn’t love a melt-in-your-mouth fluffy green tea donut?), carefully crafted coffee beverages using beans from roasters such as Verve and Heart Roasters, and, best of all, some of the most down-to-earth, all-around-day-brightening baristas you’ll be pressed to find in Los Angeles. After hosting a series of pop-up cafes throughout the rapidly developing downtown Los Angeles, Café Dulce has recently opened up their second brick-and-mortar location this past January in Alameda Square, a stone’s throw from Little Tokyo.

Choi had no idea he would become the mastermind behind one of the most popular cafes in Los Angeles when he went to college. He’d entered the University of Southern California to pursue a career in professional golf, but ended up entering the accounting field through Ernst & Young after realizing that his mother was going through some financial trouble.

Cafe Dulce in LA's Little Tokyo Neighborhood
Cafe Dulce in LA’s Little Tokyo Neighborhood  – Photo: Amparo Rios

“During that time, my mom had been out of work for around 6… 7… 8 years, and she was constantly trying to start businesses. She had worked for the Mirage Hotel in Vegas, when the Mirage was the best hotel, when it was new. So she was the international marketing hostess there, and there was a huge thing that happened where the Mirage used her as a scapegoat. She spent time in jail in Korea… and she was actually in a huge lawsuit with Mirage Resort and the casinos and Steve Wynn and all that stuff,” explains Choi.

“So anyways, that had kept her from working for a long time. And she was like, I want to start a business. So I was trying to figure out what it is that she could do.” Soon after, they opened up Teuscher Swiss Chocolates at the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

There was no rest in sight for the both of them. “So for the first year, what I would do is, I’d work Monday through Friday at Ernst and Young, and then fly up to San Jose and drive to Palo Alto on Friday night … work Saturday Sunday, and then fly back down Sunday night and go back to work on Monday… I did that straight for like six months, and did that every other week for another six months,” recalls Choi.

Soon, Choi realized that his mother was really unhappy at the store, and shortly after his grandmother passed away, his mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. He needed to get his mother out of there. Teuscher was soon sold, and the money from selling the store went to supporting his mother’s hospital bills and their living expenses.

Choi’s mother was not one to wait around to let life pass her by, however. She told Choi, “I’m not going to wait around and die. I’m going to open up a bakery in Little Tokyo.”

Choi was resistant at first, and for good reasons. First of all, neither he nor his mother had any bakery experience. The chocolate boutique, in contrast, had been a much easier store to operate. All that was required was keeping track of inventory, hiring staff, ordering chocolates from Switzerland, and packaging and selling the chocolates. Café Dulce, on the other hand, has three relatively chaotic operations in a small store: an in-store bakery, a strong coffee culture, and a popular lunch program. “Of course, we weren’t like that when we first opened,” remarks Choi. “But thinking about that sort of thing, a bakery’s not easy.”

On a more personal note, Choi was also hesitant because he knew that his mother’s declining health was heavily interlinked with stress. Choi recalls trying to convince his mother, “Mom, you should just chill. I’m going to work. You don’t have to worry about anything. You just have to relax.”

Upon revealing that she had a baker partner who would be in charge of operation, Choi finally relented, “If that’s the case and that’s going to make you happy, then go for it.”

Choi and staff at Cafe Dulce - Photo:
Choi and staff at Cafe Dulce – Photo:

As luck would have it, however, the partner bailed after a huge disagreement with Choi’s mother, three weeks before the store was set to open. So with no further ado, Choi put in his two-week notice at Ernst & Young and prepared himself to learn how to run a bakery in three weeks.

“When other people say, is there a word of advice… this is not something I recommend for people to do. When I talk to other restaurateurs or people who’ve been in the restaurant business for a really long time, they say that we’re the exception to the rule,” he admits with a laugh. “My mom had $500 in her banking account. We didn’t even have flour to bake with.”

Credit cards were maxed out over the next 6 months and payments were floated with abandon in a desperate attempt to keep the doors open. “So, what are you gonna do? She’s already spent all the money [on building out the store]… If you’ve started something, you’ve gotta at least see it through. You know, sink or swim.” And with that, Choi put his head down and faced the hurricane.

“First year and a half, it was more of, which bill could I pay last?… You quickly realize that the electric company and the gas company, they don’t charge you late fees until they actually come to your store and ask for a check. And they don’t cut your power. So we were… two, three months behind on our electrical bill and our gas bill.” It is hard to imagine that what is now such a thriving café had once been on the brink of existence.

Up and running, Café Dulce is an invaluable pillar of the Little Tokyo community, with Choi as the café’s backbone. Where community comes in, Choi’s dreamer side emerges in full force. Any chance he has to bring the community together, Choi takes initiative.

One idea he has is to turn the Japanese Village Plaza into the “Haunted Village” during the month of October every year with fog rolling in while costumed folks wander around, creating a spooky and festive atmosphere.

“The stage – that’s not being used at all in October. So I was like, let’s turn that into a pumpkin patch, bring a bunch of bales of hay, do face painting for kids, and create an environment for kids to come in and trick-or-treat,” Choi says, eyes glowing. “This year was the closest we got. We got Tanaka Farms to be down to donate a bunch of pumpkins… I think we’re a little bit closer… every time I share this dream with people, everyone gets excited. So I think, one year, before we close down as a shop, we will do this. That’s one way we try to be invested in the community.”

Another idea churning around Choi’s mind is to create an opportunity for a group of young Asian American artists to come together during the month of December to go caroling through the Village. In the winter of 2013, Café Dulce collaborated with the band Run River North, and ended up packing the entire center of the plaza. “I took a picture and sent it to the manager and was like, ‘This is the way the plaza should look. It should be filled with people.’ If there’s a crowd, you’re gonna at least check it out. You’re gonna be like, ‘What’s going on?’ You see these young Asian artists playing really cool music, and you hang out and check it out.”

When the Japanese American National Museum hosted their Giant Robot Biennale 4 in October, Café Dulce was there to support with nifty giant robot donut toppers. Choi describes Café Dulce’s role in the community as, “being not just a business in the community to be in business, but to really spread more awareness about the community… If there’s something going on in the community that we can help out with, we try to do it.”

Cafe Dulce Donuts_Michelle Nicole Photography
Donuts & pastries at Cafe Dulce – Photo: Michelle Nicole Photography

This mentality translates to each experience Choi wants customers to have at Café Dulce. By spreading goodwill and goodness to each person that comes in, Choi hopes that it’s paid forward in their respective areas of work and community. “We want to change the community and the world, one person at a time. If you come into our store, we hope that you leave happier or at last you feel better about your day after you leave our store.”

“One thing that we always talk about during our leaders’ meeting, is ‘Who is Dulce? What is our Why? Why do we operate?’ A big thing is sure, we sell coffee, we sell donuts, we sell pastries, we have lunch. But that’s what we’re doing. That’s not why we’re doing it,” explains Choi. “There should be a greater purpose, hopefully… I always tell our guys when we’re training someone on bar, we don’t serve drinks, we serve guests.”

In the process of opening Café Dulce, Choi lost his mother after a tough fight against ovarian cancer. “I went through my toughest times here at this store… after we opened this store, she was good for another year, and then the cancer recurred… she was in remission for a year, and then it came back after we opened the store, and she chose not to do chemo until the doctor said she had to, so that was another year and a half or two of fighting for her. And then it was more surgery and more hospice care, and that was tough, and opening the store was really difficult,” explains Choi.

Yet in spite of his rocky past, Choi remains strong, “It really shaped me into who I am today, and it continues to drive the person that I want to continue to be, or become…. I think one of the biggest things that God’s blessed me with, is the ability to just put my head down and be patient… and having an undying optimism that [things are] going to work out.” That undying optimism permeates the operation of Café Dulce, and is clearly evident through the work, soul, and heart Choi pours out into the vibrant Little Tokyo community.


Cover photo by Amparo Rios

Matt Almodiel – The Green Room

Matt Almodiel is a singer/songwriter and LA transplant by way of the DMV (DC/Maryland/Virginia). An alum of the 2011 Kollaboration DC showcase, he headed west to attend UCSD before moving to LA to pursue his musical dreams. A master of the mash-up, his infectious melodies will have you humming and dancing for hours after he’s finished playing.

Hear more from Matt at and visit his YouTube channel at

“Into You”
“Nothing Left to Lose”
“No Big Deal”

Special thanks to Zenith Division for their assistance in making this video.

Kollab Watches: Fresh Off the Boat 2.09 – “The Real Santa”

Fresh Off the Boat caps off its midseason finale with its very first Christmas special, “The Real Santa.” In this week’s episode viewers are treated to new perspectives to typical holiday shenanigans, including the search for the perfect gift and maintaining the illusion of Santa Claus for children still young enough to believe in him, all with a Huang-twist.

The holidays have arrived as we’re introduced to Jessica’s miniature holiday town, or as she calls “Jessica Town.” As she admires her set-up, she vents her concerns to Louis about her dismay over the portrayal of Santa Claus as a blue-collared, overweight Christmas icon. In usual Jessica fashion, she takes matters into her own hands; first by bringing on Honey’s husband to pose as an Ivy League-educated, physics-crazed Santa Claus at the holiday party at Cattleman’s Ranch. However, when Mitch accidentally breaks the illusion, Jessica rewrites Santa’s story even further by telling her son Evan that Santa is Chinese, much to Louis’ disapproval. All is well until Evan speaks out on how Santa should be present at his school’s assembly, rather than the “politically correct” gray blob mascot that replaces him, and everyone in the room cheers him on up until his comment about Santa being Chinese. The lies have caught up with Jessica, as she must find a solution to Evan’s confusion once and for all.

From my point of view, Jessica’s storyline is a polarizing one. Her disapproval of Santa lacking a degree from a university, specifically from the engineering field, is perpetuating a damaging stereotype. Yes, people may laugh and only consider the comical story of Jessica taking the legend of Santa too seriously, but with the model minority myth still strongly believed in society today, the direction she went with rewriting Santa’s story only reinforces it, especially when she later tells Evan that he is Chinese.

On the other hand, having Jessica say that Santa is Chinese also sheds light on a subject that’s not as thoroughly discussed. Why does Santa always have to be white? While one may argue that it’s because he hails from European folklore, considering the number of people of different ethnicities who celebrate Christmas, it’s wise to consider the possibility that it doesn’t always take a white man to be Santa (as Jessica proves near the end of the episode). Through this lie, she provides an opportunity for Evan to see how someone of his race can bring holiday cheer to children all over the world.

Meanwhile, Emery has put together a wonderful gift for Jessica for Christmas by creating his own replica of the bakery missing from Jessica Town. However, when Honey presents her a bakery that she found, the poor boy it stooped as he doesn’t know what to give to her with only days left until Christmas. He turns to Eddie, who doesn’t have a gift yet for Jessica, for guidance. Much to Emery’s dismay Eddie suggests to keeps it chill by taking “action with inaction.” Eddie eventually churns out a poem that he suggests can be from both of them and Emery makes it look presentable by rewriting it on a scroll. However, when he realizes that the poem wasn’t Eddie’s handy work but rather the lyrics to Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama,” Emery is at a roadblock again over what to give his mom. Fortunately for him, and as predicted by Eddie, it all works out in the end.

It’s uncommon to see just Emery and Eddie together in a storyline for a whole episode. It was hilarious to see just how opposite their personalities are as their ideologies collided over strategizing gift ideas for Jessica. My only complaint was that due to their plot not being as big as Jessica’s, we didn’t really get to see too much of them together. Hopefully we’ll get a larger story with them in the future, for actors Hudson Yang and Forrest Wheeler work really well together.

I was also psyched to see that Eddie is a Tupac fan. From the minute we were introduced to him in the first season, I was always curious as to whether or not he was, given his love for rap music. I was able to pick up on Eddie’s admiration for Tupac the minute he read “his” poem and not later when Emery saw Grandma watching the “Dear Mama” music video.

This episode of Fresh Off the Boat nicely concludes the show’s first full year on the air. The second season continues when the next episode airs on February 2, 2016. Until then, Happy Holidays everyone!


Cover Image: ABC/Kelsey McNeal