Pallette Market is a marketplace to discover culturally diverse food and beverages (like Us Two Tea!) Co-founders Donnie Chen and Eiji Mine created the platform to be a space where communities come together through sharing cultural knowledge and products. Having grown up in immigrant families, the co-founders know that food has the power to connect and bridge gaps between people, places, and cultures. In this interview, we spoke to Donnie about community and the role of food as the gateway to cultural understanding.
How has food created a sense of community for you?
To me, community isn’t just about bringing people together, it's about feeling like you belong. I know what it's like to be bullied in the cafeteria because of your food, but I also know what it's like to be part of Sunday night dinners where family friends gather around hotpot and dishes from home. The sense of community created around food at those gatherings became deeply ingrained in me.
On a trip back to Taiwan almost 20 years ago, I bonded with my grandpa over a really good oolong tea. It was the first time I’d ever had a conversation with him and he decided to tell me about oolong tea. He passed away soon after and I never got to see him again, but oolong tea brought us together.
What inspired you to create Pallette Market?
Eiji and I grew up in Toronto, a multicultural city where we were exposed to different cultures and cultural events. When a person is often exposed to something, it’s more likely they will understand, appreciate, and support it. It’s when something is foreign that they may become fearful of it. If you live in a place where diverse cultural foods aren't accessible and you don’t have friends to introduce them to you, it will be difficult for you to understand that culture, let alone support it. If there isn’t a middle ground to spark that connection, it will be much harder to bring people together. We want Pallette to be that middle ground.
What comes to mind when you think of 'Us Two'?
A community starts with two people. It could be that one person is trying to start a business and the second person believes in the idea so much that the idea becomes a reality. Tea culture couldn't have existed without a second person to sit and drink tea with the first person. Human beings are social by nature, and we'll almost always find an activity more enjoyable when there is someone there to enjoy it with. We at Pallette believe in the power of the community. Through communities, cultures are born. It is through communities that love and support are felt.
Follow Pallette Market on instagram @pallettemarket