WESTLAKE, Ohio – Kristina Cho, the namesake founder of the “Eat Cho Food” cooking blog, put out her debut cookbook this year. “Mooncakes and Milk Bread” focuses on Chinese bakeries and baked goods.
The cookbook, released Oct. 12, draws from Cho’s experience developing recipes for her blog, her family cooking habits and a lifetime of being around the restaurant industry. Cho’s grandparents lived in Cleveland’s AsiaTown neighborhood, and owned several Chinese restaurants in Greater Cleveland, including one called Tai Pan in Cho’s hometown of Westlake.
“I didn’t go to culinary school, but I did grow up in my very food-centric family. My grandparents moved to Cleveland from Hong Kong in the late ‘60s and a very common career path [for immigrants] is working in the restaurant industry,” Cho said. “I grew up watching them and my parents cook my entire life. Food has always been a big part of my life.”
That eventually grew into “Eat Cho Food,” which Cho launched in 2017 while working as an architect and interior designer in California, where she is now based. Though she went to school for architecture, getting a degree from the University of Cincinnati, Cho said she was always more fulfilled working on her blog on the side.
The blog gained traction, Cho said, and a literary agent reached out about a cookbook at a time when she was questioning her career.
“It was kind of the universe telling me I was ready for a change,” Cho said. “At that time I was peak unhappy at my job and looking for different options to make ‘Eat Cho Food’ more of a full-time job for me.”
After nabbing a book deal with Harper Horizon, Cho got to work on “Mooncakes and Milk Bread.” She said her family was supportive of her career shift and her work with food.
“It’s about continuing culture, sharing culture through food and writing. That’s something that they respect a lot,” Cho said. “In a sense, my grandparents did a similar thing – leaving everything they knew in Hong Kong behind to come here and do something bigger and better.”
While writing her book, Cho worked on perfecting bun recipes. She was hit with a challenge in March 2020, when the pandemic led to shutdowns and a bread-baking hobby craze boomed around the world.
Shortages in bread flour and other ingredients followed suit, and Cho said she had to plan ahead.
“I stocked up on 50-pound bags of bread flour,” Cho said. “But, the benefit of writing a book during the pandemic is that I had a lot of focus. There wasn’t any other thing to do. I just stayed home and baked buns all day.”
The book focuses on a basic milk bread recipe, called “The Mother of all Milk Bread,” as a base from which sweet and savory buns are developed in later chapters.
“I think that recipe is a really versatile bread recipe,” Cho said. “I really love, now that the book is out, seeing people make and master it – and create their own unique versions… I was able to give people all the tools to make this really wonderful base bread. The fact that you feel comfortable enough to incorporate your own ingredients and flavor combinations, that’s amazing to me. That’s a very powerful recipe.”
Along with her recipes for baked goods of both sweet and savory varieties, “Mooncakes and Milk Bread” also puts a spotlight on Chinese bakeries in the United States, through intermittent features in the book.
That also includes a feature on a Clevelander who’s close to Cho and her family – a family friend named Auntie Lydia, whose home-baked goods influenced Cho’s family’s own baking habits.
“I had a very unique challenge with being the first book to comprehensively cover this topic,” Cho said. “I wanted to give it a little bit of context and add a little bit more humanity to the book.”
Now, Cho is at work on a second cookbook: a collection of savory recipes that celebrates extended family dinners and cooking for loved ones. She expects the book to arrive in 2023.
You can find more information about “Mooncakes and Milk Bread” – along with plenty of tasty recipes – at Cho’s blog and website, eatchofood.com.
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