Danielle Chang knows Asian food. Her New York-based Asian food festival LUCKYRICE, which she established in 2009, has garnered the attention of industry juggernauts such as Masaharu Morimoto, David Chang, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

After cameos in cities such as Chicago, Miami, Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Toronto, Chang presents her acclaimed LUCKYRICE food festival to her first Houston audience this Thursday, October 6 at The Astorian.

Presented by Bombay Sapphire, the festival highlights the vast scope of Asian cuisine by inviting local chefs and restaurateurs to showcase innovative riffs on traditional Asian ingredients and dishes.

Participating restaurants include Izakaya, Underbelly, State of Grace, Dim Sum Bento, Great W’Kana Cafe, Kuu Restaurant, Les Ba’get, Maba Restaurant, Macao Government Tourism Office Presents Fat Rice, Mala Sichuan Bistro, Muiishi Makirritos, Peska Seafood Culture, Pondicheri, Samurai Noodle (Downtown), Seasons 52 for Open Blue, Songkran Thai Kitchen, Tea Ceremony, Triniti Restaurant, Uchi, and Wooster’s Garden.

James Beard award winner and Oxheart executive chef Justin Yu is hosting the inaugural fest.

On the heels of her Houston debut tomorrow, Chang talks eating, drinking, getting lucky, and more in an exclusive interview with PaperCityMag.com.

FROM INCEPTION TO EXPANSION
LUCKYRICE is really a celebration of Asian culture through food. It’s a way for us to bring together a lot of trends that have collided over the past few years — the interest in Asian culture and food, and the number of Asian restaurants transforming the culinary landscape and bringing new flavors to dishes all across America and the world. LUCKYRICE is a platform for that. When people are asked about major culinary cities, New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago are the obvious answers.

This year, our festivals are produced around the theme of “Culinary Collisions” and Houston as a city is nothing if not diverse. It is at the top of U.S. metropolitan areas with the most equitable distribution of America’s four major racial and ethnic groups: whites, Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians. Therefore, there was no better city for us to expand to and explore, than the Space City.

JANE OF ALL TRADES
I’ve worked in banking, fashion, publishing – you name it! Although I do not have a culinary background, food has been and always will be a strong passion of mine. From LUCKYRICE festivals to producing my own TV show and my recently debuted cook book, my current focus is on the culinary arts as an appetizing and universal lens through which to stare stories about our current obsession with Asian culture.

LUCKYRICE RUNDOWN  
[During the festival] I invite chefs that I highly respect and whom I know also have a respect for Asian culture to participate. We encourage them to be as creative as they can be in showcasing the best of Asian cuisine while maintaining some traditional flavors and ingredients. Houstonians should come ready to enjoy dishes served by the city’s most popular traditional and re-imaged Asian-inspired restaurants paired with delicious Bombay Sapphire Gin cocktails and beer! (Editor’s Tip: Don’t forget to try this year’s signature 2016 Year of the Fire Monkey Cocktail: The Silk Journey.) 

EAT, DRINK, GET LUCKY
When I decided to create a pan-Asian food festival, I named it LUCKYRICE because both luck and rice are universal signifiers across Asian cultures: from India to Korea, we feast on rice and revere the concept of luck. Rice feeds us, literally and symbolically, keeping us nourished and spirited. In Chinese culture, we offer rice to the Chinese kitchen god to ward away evil spirits and to the Chinese god of farming for a prosperous harvest. Rice is the Asian staff of life — so much so that instead of asking “How are you?,” many Asian cultures greet one another with, “Have you eaten your rice yet?”

ASIAN EVOLUTION
Over the course of the past seven years, the concept of Asian cuisine in the United States has evolved and its popularity has increased significantly. As a result, our festivals inevitably change from year to year as well. I think one major change is that the taboo of Asian “fusion” is no longer.

We’re in a time where fusion is the de-facto word of the day and the word “authentic” is bring thrown out. For example, in L.A.’s Koreatown, kimchi tacos as the outgrowth of Hispanics and Koreans living side by side following the riots. It is not some kind of lofty fusion ideal, but rather, an authentic outgrowth of a community with a food that reflects that neighborhood and the people who live there.

To me, this is much more authentic than some esoteric Chinese regional cuisine. People have become more open to accepting “fusion” as not a diss on authentic Asian cuisine, but rather, complementary to it.

With a new generation of media-savvy Asian-Americans like Eddie Huang and Danny Bowien, there’s a growing audience for my ideas. The fact that I can go to a generic grocery store and walk out with a jar of kimchi goes to show how much Asian cuisine has changed. Dishes such as pad thai, pho, and xiaolongbao are now a part of the American vocabulary.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR LUCKYRICE?
We’re always on the lookout for up and coming culinary cities to expand to. You’ll just have to wait and see until next year!

Still haven’t secured your tickets to tomorrow’s festival? Click here to purchase tickets.