We had the good fortune of connecting with Cal Chang Yocum and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Cal, what do you think makes you most happy? Why?
Connection makes me happy and it can take many forms, including spending time with friends and family, traveling, reading books and articles or watching shows and movies (I love storytelling!) that illustrate how we’re all connected in our humanity. One of my favorite ways to connect is through food and eating. Food is a bridge to people we don’t know, people who look nothing like us and people who don’t speak our language. It’s its own language, a universal one.
Everyone has to eat to stay alive, but for most people, food is more than sustenance—it’s history, family, culture, warmth and love. It is an extension of ourselves. Anthony Bourdain understood that refusing someone’s food isn’t simply saying “No, thanks,” to moussaka, it’s telling someone you’re not interested in sharing in their Greek culture and identity, the efforts they’re so proud of, and their desire to nurture and love you with a creation they’ve cooked. Eating delicious food also makes me happy, so I’m always excited to have the opportunity to connect through food.
Also, dogs. Dogs make me very happy.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m both a writer and a home cook with an IG food blog. There are countless food accounts on IG, but what separates me from the others is that I’m looking to bridge cultures, introduce people to new Asian recipes, and simply share my love of food and cooking. When the opportunity arises, the writer in me likes to share stories of my childhood and explain why a recipe is meaningful to me. My cooking melds my background, including my SE Asian roots, a long stint in the South and my beloved home of San Diego.
I’ve always loved cooking and sharing recipes, and my journey started in 2011, when my kids were young, with a WordPress blog called 180 Lunches – Changing the way you pack lunch, one school day at a time. The blog was focused on ideas for packing school lunches. Why 180? Because there are typically 180 school days in an academic year. The blog lasted one school year.
After that, I kept cooking and creating and decided to take my food and recipes to IG. Since the platform is so photo-heavy, I contacted a friend who’s a food photographer and asked for a tutorial. Soon, I was a cook, recipe developer, photographer and food stylist. Then my teenage daughter told me I needed videos, reels and TikTok! Before I knew it, I was editing videos, going live on IG and collaborating with other accounts to review Trader Joe’s items or make dumplings.
I’ve met so many great people along the way, from here in Encinitas to London to Japan. When I have an abundance of apples or chili peppers in my garden, I offer them up in my IG story and find myself meeting my local followers in person. One Mother’s Day, I hosted a brunch for some single-mom friends and IG followers I had never met who are single moms. Online, I’ve been invited to cook some of my favorite recipes with a group of moms who followed along in their respective houses. I love these types of events because they bring people together and create community. It’s one of my favorite parts of blogging.
IG has chronicled the evolution of my cooking, so while I’ve been honing my video, editing, photography skills, I’ve of course been cooking a ton. That’s why one of my proudest moments was having a casting agent reach out to me about trying out for a new cooking show with Guy Fieri. Sadly, COVID shelved the series.
On the writing side, I’ve been freelancing for as long as I can remember. COVID forced a long hiatus, but I’m back at the craft with a Medium account that focuses on personal essays about travels, immigrant life and, yep—you guessed it—food. The intersection of food and writing is my passion.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Saturday: Visit the Tuna Harbor Dockside Market at Seaport Village
Check out Little Italy Mercato Farmers’ Market and grab a bite
Explore Little Italy
Show at The Casbah
Burgers and drinks at Starlite
Brunch at Cafe 21
Seven Bridges Walk
Lunch at one of the taquerias
Explore Balboa Park
Pho for dinner at Shank and Bone
A show at Lips
Mimosas and soft scramble at Zinque
Point Loma Tidepools
Lunch at Liberty Station
Dinner and drinks at Ironside
Coffee at James Coffee Co.
Donuts at Donut Bar
Game at Petco Park
Dinner at Sushi Tadokoro
Breakfast at Coffee Cup
Surf La Jolla Shores – lesson from Surf Diva
Spend the day at the beach
Dinner at Puesto’s
Hang gliding at the Gliderport
Explore Black’s Beach
Brunch at Farmer and the Seahorse
Hike Torrey Pines State Park
Dinner at Din Tai Fung
Drinks at Raised by Wolves
Lofty for coffee
Del Mar Dog Beach
Brunch at Monarch
Flight of mezcal at ALCE, Solana Beach
Explore Cardiff and Encinitas
Happy hour and dinner at Death X Tequila
Post-drink fish tacos from Jorge’s
Pastries at French Corner Bakery, Leucadia
Goat Yoga at Sugar Sweet Farm
Lunch at Valentina
Self-Realization Meditation Gardens, Encinitas
Tour Carlsbad Aquafarm
Dinner at Dija Mara
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It’s so cliché, but I want give a hat-tip to my parents. Their courage to immigrate to the United States from Malaysia changed the trajectory of my life. Immigrant life wasn’t easy, but it taught me the value of hard work, independence and our individual stories. I watched them struggle to keep their kids anchored in their Chinese culture while raising them in America. I’m now taking a page from their playbook as I raise hapa children. The writer in me appreciates the struggles we endured because all good stories come with a plot twist and a heroine who overcomes adversity.
Other: Medium: https://medium.com/@calyocum
Brittany McNevin Sam Yocum