I dreaded writing this essay. In fact, I wanted to skip publishing a piece introducing myself as 5280’s new food editor entirely; I preferred to get to work with the least fanfare possible after I received news of my promotion earlier this month. That is, until a fellow local journalist of Asian descent reached out to me via Instagram after I announced my new role on April 10. She told me that the thrill of seeing an Asian-American woman become a prominent face in Colorado’s food writing scene made her cry.

After I read her message, I cried, too, and still feel a flood of emotion every time I think of it. The thoughtful gesture was a reminder of what it means, to me at least, to be person of color elevated to one of the most coveted positions in Colorado print and digital media. As someone who didn’t grow up seeing individuals of Asian ancestry in the careers I wanted the most—magazine journalist, food critic, etc.—it is difficult for me to express how surreal it feels to be 5280’s third food editor, and the first of Asian descent. It feels especially meaningful because the news cycle prompts us daily to confront the perpetual reality of racial injustice.

So although I’m ecstatic about overseeing all of 5280’s dining coverage, a beat I have adored since joining the staff as assistant food editor in 2019, my excitement is laced with the fear of failing to represent my ethnicity in such an influential role when anti-Asian violence is on the rise across the country. When I admitted to my mother that I didn’t know how to put my thoughts into words for this essay, she offered some advice: “Tell them you will do the best job,” she said. “Not because you are Asian, but because you are an Asian who loves food.”

Mama is right: I do love to eat. I inherited my big appetite from my parents, both of whom moved to Colorado from Bangkok, Thailand, in the early 1980s. They raised me to express affection by sharing food and appreciate the flavors of my heritage and that of others. But like many American-born kids raised by immigrant parents, I spent most of my childhood and teen years trying to shed my Thai-ness, a crusade that often included hiding traditions and cuisines our family treasured at home from my peers. Despite my efforts to seem as American as possible, I realized as an adult that the foods connecting me to my parents’ homeland are the ones that nourish me the most.

After I earned degrees in journalism and psychology from the University of Colorado Boulder, I landed my first reporting gig at Asian Avenue magazine, a community-centric publication covering Asian American and Pacific Islander issues. In 2014, I became a writer and editor for the Colorado Tourism Office’s website and vacation guides, a role that hatched my love affair with the Centennial State’s culinary scene and led me to 5280. Nearly two years ago, Denise Mickelsen, 5280’s former food editor, who left the position in March, hired me as her assistant food editor after we hit it off over a brunch interview at Ophelia’s Electric Soapbox.

Since then, I’ve had the honor of reporting on all of the talented chefs, artisans, farmers, restaurateurs, and others who make the state we call home such a delicious to place to live. The stories I’ve enjoyed producing the most are the ones showcasing how food unites us, offering the opportunity to understand and appreciate the culture of its makers—other fellow Coloradans. Now I will lead 5280’s dining coverage as an Asian-American woman, a fact that I hope will help shape what we publish to be more inclusive. But I need your help: Please let me know what you want to read in the pages of the magazine and on 5280.com. You can reach me at dining@5280.com and on Instagram at @whatispattyeating. I can’t wait to hear from you and to embark on this journey together.

This article was originally published in 5280 June 2021.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.