Celebrating Culture by Making Dumplings Together with Lenny An of Dumpling Discussions

What better way to bring people together than dumplings? Lenny An's Dumpling Discussions give people a simple invitation—come enjoy fabulous dumplings!—while also offering something deeper: an opportunity to have conversations about potentially challenging topics. From an Instagram post inviting folks to his next event: 

I’ve always wanted to create a space for people to talk candidly and honestly about topics that may be hard to approach. What better way to do this than alongside one of my favorite activities, dumpling making?! The evening will be a combo cooking class and intimate evening of discussions."

I love this for several reasons: people aren't just eating the dumplings, they're making them together. The food is a way of bringing people together and creating an intentional container for a substantive discussion. And the proceeds to go charities that are personally important to Lenny.

From small gathering conversations to preserving legacy businesses, Lenny is driven by a sense of cultural pride, a spirit of openness, and a simple appreciation for tasty carbs. His reflections reveal how food traditions and games can strengthen social bonds across communities. Lenny teaches us that a little openness goes a long way when it comes to cross-cultural understanding. 

Watch the full interview on YouTube or listen via podcast audio here.

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Dumplings Bring People Together

In the podcast, Lenny shares how dumplings have been a lifelong passion for him. He says, "Dumplings were always a thing that I ate, not a thing I did" while growing up. But in college, Lenny started hosting dumpling-making gatherings for his friends as a fun activity where everyone could learn together.

Now in New York, Lenny continues to share his love of dumplings through Dumpling Discussions, using dumpling-making as a unique form of team bonding and community building.

"People come hang out, they tell me they have a good time, they share the work, they learn something about the culture, they learn something about themselves."

Lenny opened up about how moving to New York helped him embrace his cultural background more fully, especially being around other Asian and Chinese communities for the first time.

Lenny discusses his pride in his heritage and wanting to celebrate it more openly:

"Hell yeah, I'm Chinese. I want to celebrate that, and I want to share that with people now."

Supporting local organizations

This program would already be great if that's where it stopped. But it goes a step further: the proceeds all go to organizations about which Lenny harbors a personal passion.

The conversation touched on groups like Send Chinatown Love that work to support businesses in Chinatown, especially during the pandemic. Lenny highlighted little-known spots in Chinatown with fascinating histories, like the only store that still hand-makes mahjong tiles.

Lenny also volunteers with Heart of Dinner, delivering meals to elderly Asian families in need. Even short conversations of a few seconds brighten up their day.

Hosting with Intention

As Lenny plans more intimate dumpling discussions on substantial topics like mental health and success, he wants to improve his skills as a host and facilitator. He draws inspiration from the book The Art of Gathering, reflecting on the importance of setting a clear start and end time.

"How do I facilitate these events? How do I moderate and host to make people feel the most comfortable that they can be vulnerable if they want to, right? That kind of, I wanna go to create that environment for people and kind of have like a good experience."

You can't go wrong with carbs

The overarching theme is using food, culture, and conversation as vehicles to foster community and bring people together. As Lenny says

"It's the easiest way to get people to do things, or hang out, 'cause like, no one's gonna say, "No, I hate dumplings." I've never met a person that says that."

Lenny aims to create welcoming spaces for people to engage across cultures and connect more deeply through activities like dumpling-making. His passion comes through in small gatherings as well as in supporting Chinatown businesses and organizations.

Watch the full video interview here:

Or listen to the audio here: