[Lede image: Chang on the set of Lucky Chow. Courtesy of Kathryn Sheldon]
Since founding LUCKYRICE 10 years ago, Danielle Chang ’94 has ensured that the company, which produces food and cultural festivals around the country, showcases “the entire diaspora of Asia,” she said. Chang’s experience and enthusiasm led to her latest gig as the host of the television show Lucky Chow. Returning for its fourth season in May on PBS, the show highlights her encounters with chefs and food producers as part of her travels.
“Food is a really wonderful vehicle for sparking conversation,” Chang said. “My mission is always to spark conversation about the broader culture. Having that opportunity [on PBS] is amazing.”
She’s especially proud that the PBS show gives her a platform to celebrate and raise the profile of Asian Americans through the representation of a wide range of experiences. “There’s a whole diaspora, with a lot of secondary migrations, like Chino-Latino, the Caribbean, and Australia,” Chang said. “We’re looking at it through a global lens and not being restricted to what’s ‘authentic.’ Fusion used to be a dirty word, and we’re trying to debunk that. Non-Asian chefs are cooking Asian food to cater to Americans. They’re spreading the love.”
Chang’s desire to educate is something that has been with her since her time at Barnard, when she was an art major. As an undergraduate, Chang and her friend Allison Dubin Domeneghetti ’93 (pictured below) launched Artwalk Art Tours of Soho “to expose non-art people to contemporary art and showcase new artists, galleries, and collectors who weren’t as well known,” Chang said. After Barnard, Chang worked as a curator, art dealer, and teacher before she returned to Columbia for a master’s in critical theory.
Even as her career path traversed different industries — she’s been the CEO of Vivienne Tam, a fashion company, and the publisher of Simplycity Magazine and Simplycity.com — her fondness for the multifaceted, complex, and endlessly delicious contributions of Asian American cuisine was always near. First instilled in her by her parents, who emigrated from China to Taiwan before settling on the West Coast of the U.S., Chang’s zeal was nurtured through her Barnard experience.
“Barnard laid the foundation,” she said. “I was inspired by the classroom and by going downtown to Soho.” Barnard also shaped Chang’s vision for what her company could look like. LUCKYRICE’s six employees are all women, and Chang hires Barnard students as interns.
After taking the “Duchamp and His Legacy” course with visiting professor and art critic Robert C. Morgan, Chang was ultimately inspired to pursue a career in contemporary art. She also recognizes senior lecturer in art history and co-chair and director of visual arts Joan Snitzer for the role she’s played in Chang’s life.
“Professor Snitzer was hugely influential in shaping my career,” said Chang. “She was a super cool chair of the visual arts department who really guided me.” Some of Chang’s most memorable moments in the art department came courtesy of Snitzer, such as the time when the colorful sculptor Jeff Koons, a long-time friend of Snitzer’s, gave her class a private lecture.
The mother of two girls, ages 16 and 14, has her hands full with family and work, and confidently balances each, having learned how to juggle well from her days on campus. “Barnard teaches students how to set priorities,” she said.
Looking ahead, Chang continues to connect with other alumnae in the arts, a community that Snitzer initially helped to connect, via the arts affinity group Conversations in Contemporary Art. “Barnard is so well known for its arts,” said Chang. “That legacy needs to be celebrated.” She would also like to create a curriculum for adults and college students about cultural food studies.
And while she has a lot on her proverbial plate with a global business to manage, Chang’s top priority remains pushing cultural boundaries by spreading the love of food.
— MERRI ROSENBERG ’78