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The Rise of Ronnie Woo — a Gay, Asian, All-American Chef

The Rise of Ronnie Woo — a Gay, Asian, All-American Chef

The Rise of Ronnie Woo — a Gay, Asian, All-American Chef
Doug MacBean

Ronnie Woo’s upbringing and love for his husband are the main ingredients in his debut cookbook, Did You Eat Yet?

Ronnie Woo had an unconventional path to becoming a chef and TV food personality. A former model, he went on to earn a master’s in marriage and family therapy and an MBA before launching a private chef company, the Delicious Cook, which prepares delicious dishes for some of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

But Woo hasn’t forgotten his roots. His new cookbook, Did You Eat Yet?: Craveable Recipes From an All-American Asian Chef, combines flavors from his American upbringing and Asian heritage for a taste that is truly all-American. Just ask his husband, Doug.

As Woo details to Out, good food makes for a good relationship. And on a broader scale, it can even push back against prejudice.

Out: What first inspired you to launch the Delicious Cook, your L.A.-based private chef company?
Ronnie Woo: As cheesy as this sounds, my husband, Doug, was the inspiration behind my pursuit of food. I’ve always loved food, but for the longest time, my perspective of what constituted a career was pretty narrow. And after meeting Doug, who always encouraged me to do what made me happy, that all changed. Combined with academic exhaustion from completing two master’s degrees, plus a little thing called rent, I basically dove headfirst into starting the Delicious Cook.

Your clients include A-list stars like Gwyneth Paltrow, Mindy Kaling, Jessica Alba, Charlie Sheen — and even self-proclaimed D-lister Kathy Griffin. Can you share your favorite experience cooking for a celeb?
They’ve all been my favorite! Except for maybe one of them, but I won’t name names because that’s not nice — although, if you ever run into me in person, I’ll undoubtedly tell you! But if I had to choose, I would say Mindy is the most fun to cook for because she likes to eat the same things that I do, one of her favorites being my crème brûlée bread pudding.

Ronnie Woo

You have an eclectic background. How did your different experiences as a model and graduate student lead to and inform your role as a chef?
It’s definitely been an unexpected hodgepodge of education and experiences that have led to my career in food. The [master’s in marriage and family therapy] has taught me to really listen to my clients — and people, just in general. And the MBA has obviously helped with my business acumen, which is crucial to running a people-oriented hospitality brand.

Funny enough, my modeling career might have given me the most surprising lesson of all, which is that eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and I shouldn’t be in an industry that deprives me of joy, which in this case is delicious food. When I was modeling, I would refrain from eating my favorite things just so I could fit into sample sizes, and it was pure torture. I remember this one time I booked a big job, but after the fitting, my agent called and told me the brand said I looked “full” in my pants and was dropping me from the campaign. I just laughed, because I was the skinniest I had ever been. [I] immediately bought two 4x4 [burgers] and a shake from In-N-Out, went home, and stuffed my face until I passed out from a food coma. From that moment on, I said, “Fuck it, I don’t want a career in something that’s not going to make me happy, and I’m going to eat whatever the hell I want!”

You’re a luminary yourself. Recently, you were a celebrity judge on Netflix’s Is It Cake?, and your TV guest appearance credits include the Today show and Rachael Ray. What’s your dream goal in the sphere of entertainment?
Honestly, I’d love to keep on doing television and writing books, maybe even have a cute cookware [line] one day — just putting that out there! Sometimes, we get so lost in trying to create these big dreams that we forget we might already be living them. In the sphere of entertainment, it is rarely ever overnight success; therefore it’s important to look at your achievements — big or small — and really appreciate them as a whole. That’s not to say you should get complacent, but maybe not live under the idea that you will only be happy once you reach the next milestone, because that’s a false promise. And when it comes to a possibility model, that’s an easy one — it’s my good friend and living legend, Rachael Ray. She has this amazing balance of career and marriage. She manages to stay down-to-earth while also being the baddest bitch out there!

Doug MacBean

The full title of your new book is Did You Eat Yet?: Craveable Recipes From an All-American Asian Chef. Gastronomically and politically, can you unpack what it means to be an all-American Asian chef and how that influences the food you prepare?
Ultimately, I really just want to redefine what it means to be all-American. America is a country of great diversity, rich cultures, and, let’s be honest, is built on the backs of immigrants. The definition of all-American is much more than just what you see in an antiquated Abercrombie ad, and it’s really important to recognize that. Over the years, I’ve come to realize that both my American upbringing and my Asian heritage are exactly what make me all-American. In the food space, I always felt the need to fit into a box, but I soon realized that I just needed to make food that felt authentic to me and tasted scrumdiddlyumptious — that’s all that really matters. Some might say my recipes are “Asian-influenced” or maybe even “American-influenced,” but in actuality, they are a culmination of both plus all my other culinary and travel experiences.

Beyond sharing tasty recipes, how do you hope to shift the cultural conversation as a gay Asian American with a platform in media and food?
There are so many layers to unpack in this question alone, but without writing a 10-page essay, I’ll try my best to answer this in two parts. First, there is the subject of self-identity and how the intersectionality of being gay, Asian, and American can have immensely negative effects on how we view ourselves and who we are as individuals. It’s already confusing to be any one of those identities, let alone all of them at once! Second, there is the subject of self-worth and representation. The AAPI community, in general, is already marginalized, but on top of that, throw in being LGBTQ+, and, more often than not, it feels like we are at the very bottom...even within the LGBTQ+ community. All of this perpetuates the idea that we are invisible and “less than,” which has detrimental repercussions on our mental health. My hope is that the conversation continues to shift toward shining a positive light on the AAPI LGBTQ+ community, tearing down the stigma around taking care of our mental health, and reminding everyone that gay Asian Americans are fucking awesome — and don’t you forget it.

Doug MacBean

The book title is also a quotation often repeated by your mom in your childhood, “Did you eat yet?” Why is that phrase significant to you, then and now?
Growing up, my parents were never big on verbal expressions of love, so when my mom asked if I had eaten yet, it was her way of telling me that she loved me and wanted to take care of me. To their credit, my folks have become a lot better at saying I love you as we’ve gotten older. In a weird way though, when my mom asks, “Did you eat yet?” it almost has more weight than saying I love you because it takes a lot of effort to prepare food and feed someone.

What is the power of cooking to nurture romantic relationships?
My 15-year relationship with Doug started out as a simple dinner and continues to grow thanks to our mutual love of food. I cook for him almost daily — it’s my way of taking care of him — and making him dependent on me so he won’t want to leave me…just kidding, sort of. There are so many factors that come into play for a healthy relationship to have longevity, such as being a good listener and sexual chemistry, but being able to make yummy food from scratch for your partner already puts you a step ahead. I will say one thing — if you go on a date with someone who doesn’t love food, run as fast as you can because that’s the biggest red flag that ever existed!

Doug MacBean

Tell us a story of how a dish brought you and your partner closer together.
Let me tell you about a dish that we call “ASS.” And no, I’m not referring to my booty cheeks. I’m talking about something I made that we nicknamed Awfully Shitty Salmon. It was actually the very first meal that I ever cooked for Doug, and at the time, I thought a certain combo of herbs and spices would really amp up the flavor. But instead, it did the exact opposite. Whatever it was that I put on our plates tasted so hideously disgusting that after just one bite, we both spat it out, looked at each other, and just laughed our tits off! Probably not the answer you were expecting, but it’s something that we laugh about to this day. For the record, I’m an exponentially better cook now.

What do you hope is your takeaway for readers of Did You Eat Yet?
My goal with Did You Eat Yet? has always been crystal clear from the very start — delicious food, laughter, and a sense of joy. If everyone gets at least two out of those three, I’ll be super happy.

Speaking of, what did you eat today?
A soft-boiled egg, a medium-ripe banana, and a bowl of minced beef and rice — it’s a recipe from the book, actually. I also had some crispy hot wings from Popeyes. What? They’re only back for a limited time!

Learn even more about Ronnie Woo, the Delicious Cook, and his cookbook Did You Eat Yet? — available now at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, Amazon, and more — at And check out a recipe from the book below!

Butter Shrimp Brioche Rolls
(Makes 4 sandwiches)

Ronnie Woo

¼ cup mayonnaise, plus more for toasting buns
2 tablespoons dill relish
2 tablespoons minced chives, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon dried dill
½ teaspoon onion powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 to 2 teaspoons hot sauce, such as Cholula or Sriracha (optional)
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined
4 brioche hot dog buns
8 leaves gem lettuce
Potato chips, any flavor

1. Make the Sauce
In a large bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, relish, chives, lemon juice, dried dill, onion powder, garlic powder, hot sauce, and ¼ teaspoon each of salt and black pepper until combined.

2. Cook the Shrimp
In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. When the butter has melted, add the shrimp, season with a pinch of salt and ground black pepper, and cook the shrimp until just opaque, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Do not overcook. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to the sauce and toss until combined. Set aside while you toast the buns. Discard the remaining butter and any liquid in the pan.

3. Toast the Buns
Heat a nonstick pan over low heat. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on each outer side of the hot dog bun and toast until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Monitor this so you don’t burn the buns.

4. Assemble the Rolls
To assemble the rolls, add a couple of leaves of lettuce to the inside of each toasted bun and divide the shrimp mixture amongst the buns. Serve warm with your favorite potato chips.

Main Photography
Photographer Doug MacBean
Stylist Kevin Mercer
Grooming Lisa Hennings

Food Images
Photography and Styling Ronnie Woo

This article is part of the Out March/April issue, out on newsstands April 4. Support queer media and subscribe -- or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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Daniel Reynolds

Daniel Reynolds is the editor-in-chief of Out and an award-winning journalist who focuses on the intersection between entertainment and politics. This Jersey boy has now lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade.

Daniel Reynolds is the editor-in-chief of Out and an award-winning journalist who focuses on the intersection between entertainment and politics. This Jersey boy has now lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade.