For Dorsey, VR is “a place of safety,” where introspection, understanding and empathy can happen. Her questions are rooted in personal experience, like when career counselors at culinary school looked at her and said, “You want to make Asian food, right?” Or when commonplace ingredients she grew up with, like chrysanthemum and celtuce, found their way into trendy restaurants, presented as new ideas by non-Asian chefs. That frustration of seeing a culture — her own culture — being ignored and misunderstood, then suddenly being “discovered” and misunderstood all over again, is at the center of Asian in America.
As Dorsey writes:
In the end,
being asian american is a maze,
a question about a hyphen,
all bound tightly together in a feeling
of growing up somewhere but never belonging.
Issues of identity are often complicated because they struggle to resist simple categorization. First-generation immigrants like Dorsey are buffeted by the assumptions and expectations of others, a life lived between two worlds. In VR, Chef Dorsey is bringing guests into that middle space, where they can experience alongside her what it feels like to be Asian in America.