Written By: Susan Weinstein
After seven years of working in the culinary industry, Vicky AuYeung was seeking to be a part of an organization whose main focus was to bring people together from local communities through food. With that focus, she found a job opportunity at Common Threads as a New York based chef instructor. Soon after doing her research on Common Threads and learning about its mission, she found what she was looking for and applied for the position immediately. Yes, she got hired and has been happily educating families on food and nutrition for the past year and a half.
With her strong sense of equality and social equity, AuYeung has become a part of the Common Threads team that values positive encouragement and a supportive culture to its team members. At the end of the day, she feels appreciated and needed, especially when she sees the excitement and eagerness on the faces of her students during each cooking class.
“Seeing smiles on my students’ faces as they engage in fun and nutritional cooking lessons is the most rewarding part of being a chef instructor at Common Threads,” AuYeung said.
Born and raised in New York, her biggest influences were her parents who immigrated from China in the 1950s. Upon coming to New York, her mom took a job as a seamstress and her father took a job as a taxi driver just to provide shelter and put food on their table. Her father, who was a restaurant cook in Hong Kong prior to leaving China was her greatest inspiration.
“I identify best with Cantonese cuisine, which is specific to areas of China such as Hong Kong and Guangzhou where my parents are from,” AuYeung said. “I grew up eating many types of comforting stir-fry and wok-steamed foods. On weekends, our family would often go out for dim sum, a Chinese style of afternoon tea and brunch that has become widely accepted in the Western part of the world.”
She spoke about how she was mesmerized when he would prepare their simple and nurturing home meals with so much love and care. This was so impactful, that during college she realized that her true passion was in cooking. From there, she attended the French Culinary Institute and volunteered to work in a modern-Asian restaurant to familiarize herself with the inner workings of the food industry. After graduation, her first position was at a private school in Manhattan.
She has cooked in many types of kitchens ranging from Google’s corporate offices, Neiman Marcus, Union Square Hospitality Group, along with many catering companies. Nonetheless, cooking for and with kids has always been her desire. Making a difference in her students’ lives and their families have been the most rewarding part of her career to date.
Since she started at Common Threads in January 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she has had to shift her teaching from face-to-face to cooking virtually. She has made the appropriate adjustment and has had to pivot her teaching program with the help and support from her peers at Common Threads.
“Common Threads has been amazing!,” AuYeung said. “I will continue to cherish the experience of working with an organization that is so accommodating and cares so much about their staff and the community that it serves.”
AuYeung expects her future work in the culinary arts field will be in the social justice space.
“One initiative that I am focused on is bridging social gaps between people from all walks of life through one single basic human need: food!,” AuYeung explained. “I envision a movement supported by Common Threads where communities of all types will be able to gather and share culturally rich meals with each other, an experience that has the power to promote cultural acceptance and unity.”
She believes that the mission of the initiative aligns with that of Common Threads, whose core values of equality and food equity are at the forefront.
Finally, she shares with us that she is committed to carry on the Common Threads mission of educating families on nutritional awareness for as long as she is a chef instructor and beyond.
Perhaps her life and ambitions so far have been reflective of what she learned at an early age; the importance of sacrifice, hard work and dedication to family.
ABOUT COMMON THREADS
Common Threads is a national nonprofit that provides children and families cooking and nutrition education to encourage healthy habits that contribute to wellness. We equip under-resourced communities with information to make affordable, nutritious and appealing food choices wherever they live, work, learn, and play. We know that food is rooted in culture and tradition so we promote diversity in our lessons and recipes, encouraging our participants to celebrate the world around them. To learn more about Common Threads, visit www.commonthreads.org.