Inspired by their love for fusion delicacies, US-based Singaporean travel show hosts Elizabeth Lazan and Jeane Reveendran journey cross-country to discover Chinese-Fusion food in America! Along the way, they crack open fortune cookies and interpret cookie wisdom... which guides them to their next destination.
Catch these real-life best friends journeying by train, bus, and car, as they find the yumminess of the East in the West, traveling from the east (NYC) to the west (LA) on Crack The Cookie Code! Available in South-East Asia on A+E Networks, Channel FYI ASIA Mondays 945pm. Also online at http://www.fyiasia.tv/shows/crack-cookie-code
Elizabeth Lazan and Jeane Reveendran kindly gave SP Blog this self-interview.
What was the inspiration behind the journey?
Jeane Reveendran: It all started off with the idea of a road-trip. We always love traveling together and learn a lot about ourselves and each other when we do. We enjoy meeting new people, documenting adventures, finding out more about different cultures. So when we moved to the US, we wanted to create something massive in this huge terrain.
Elizabeth Lazan: Plus we've been filming videos since we were kids—live sketches and short films. As Jeane said, we've always loved traveling, alone or together. And living here for so long now, I naturally miss Singapore food. I wanted to get to know better this place (USA) I call my 'home away from home'. And to rediscover travel, food, adventure with someone who I know will appreciate it equally sounded special to me. That's how the inspiration was first born in my head. It slowly became a reality when we started developing it, writing it, and then actually filming it!
What was the planning and preparation like?
EL: The idea was to find a taste of the foods we grew up with—and simultaneously uncovering different interpretations of it. We started researching one-hole-in-the-wall and one high-end restaurant option at each stop, and planned our cross-country route with the theme of Chinese-fusion food in mind.
JR: Also, we wanted to explore this infamous 'Singapore Noodles', which doesn’t originate from Singapore, and yet you can find it in most Chinese restaurants here! Both of us are half-Chinese, so we thought it'd be cool to focus on Chinese fusion cuisine. Growing up with mixed heritage in Singapore, we were used to different exotic flavors. The idea of discovering how Chinese food is integrated in the US excited our taste buds!
EL: As for the route, we really wanted to have that feeling of going cross-country from the east to the west—to explore the terrain using different modes of transportation. Of course, the way we saw the country differed according to how we chose to travel through it—via car, bus or train. From then on, it was just GO—while making sure we kept on schedule and got all the permits! We wanted the feel of the show to be personal, like a travel diary - and we improv off one another really well. Some of it felt quite renegade and that's because we wanted to maintain that impromptu quality.
Why a fortune cookie?
EL: For me, it was a fun element—adding a twist to the travel. It's fascinating how we never eat fortune cookies in SG, but in America this 'Chinese desert' is usually given after every meal. With each cookie we opened, we never knew what we were going to get and decode, which added to the improvisational aspect of the show.
JR: Exactly what she said!
Can you share some fun experiences?
JR: One of my top 3 cars is Jeep, so the fact that I got to drive one from Austin to New Mexico was a dream come true. Driving through the different terrains was so fun and very challenging, especially having to drive on the wrong side of the road. It was awesome to have such a great partner (aka Liz) to make sure I stayed awake, alert...
EL: ….it's tiring to be a co -pilot.
JR: Haha. She was a real champion. I knew she was tired, but she kept the energy up and never once complained. And helped with directions! Which was so crucial.
EL: We actually turned onto the wrong side of traffic one time, but it was in a gas station and late at night so it was pretty safe! One really fun memory on the journey was surfing. We shot in the dead of winter—though LA really has no winter—and being in the Pacific Ocean mid-January is no fun. We had to get the footage regardless and I was determined to learn. It was so cold my feet got numb trying to stand on the surfboard! One of the most exhilarating experiences, which taught me to just be in the moment and accomplish the goal of the cookie!
JR: And since I wasn't surfing, I was eating Khong Guan cookies—that was my contribution to Liz's surf. We work well, like that.
What were some surprising discoveries?
JR: Just the whole process in itself was amazing—the possibility of bringing something to life even though you don't have everything figured out. It was our first big project and we handled every aspect of it ourselves, from planning the route to reaching out to the restaurants and attractions, and to reaching out to sponsors. The process was very intimidating because it started with the idea of filming a road trip and before we knew it we were planning a travel show and half of the journey was being decided by fortune cookies.
JR: As much as Liz and I are like 2 chicks in a coop, we have different strengths and weaknesses. It was a delightful discovery that we complement each other so well. We were never discouraged at the same time, and we were always able to pick up from where the other person left off.
JR: Although we managed the project alone, we couldn't have done it without the support of friends who not only believed in our vision, but helped with practical aspects of the show, for example, giving us advice about planning our stops at gas station every 150 miles so we don't get stuck with no gas in the middle of nowhere. It was an all-round beautiful synergy of love and support that made this dream spring to life!
EL: I discovered that I love Jeane...
JR: You mean you didn't know that?
EL: I did. But I was reminded! But in all seriousness, I found that you can achieve anything if you set your mind on it. It's not that I'm surprised but it revealed itself to me every now and then unexpectedly because I never took 'no' for an answer. What I took away from this trip was that hearing the word 'no'—to negotiations, filming, permit—it didn't mean a negative, it just meant "Okay, what other path will I have to carve out to do what we set our hearts to do.
EL: It also really helped that I had a great cheerleader beside me. And I'm talking about you, Jeane. There were some days when I was tired, or some days when Jeane was discouraged but in those times we picked each other up, and I think that is the power of a good collaboration but, more importantly, the power of a good friendship...
EL: So, that was a beautiful re-discovery.
What did you learn from this process?
JR: I had to get my license because Liz didn't have hers...
EL: …but I'm an awesome co-pilot!
JR: That you are! I have a Singapore license but I've been in the States for a while now, so I was advised that I needed to get a New York State license. Due to scheduling conflicts, I only had one chance to pass the test before setting out on our adventure.
JR: I was so anxious because all the pressure was on me to get it and if I failed, we would have to walk from Austin to Los Angeles. Just kidding! I had to throw all the negativity out of the window and I learnt that I didn’t always need a backup plan, and trusting that one opportunity was all I needed to make something work.
EL: Another big thing I learnt was patience. We were working together towards the same goal but had different ways of getting there and I learnt that trust and respect was very important because those were the things that gave you space to grow.
What does your fortune say about your future?
EL: To keep eating and traveling...
JR: Or eating while traveling...
EL: In all seriousness, I would love to continue Crack The Cookie Code, to highlight the culinary arts and restaurants around the world. To inspire people to get out and travel because I feel that traveling is nature's medicine for the soul and if I can in some way give joy, provide entertainment or offer inspiration to someone watching the show, that would be a really beautiful thing.
JR: In the same vein, I'd like to continue developing the concept of the show. I would like the themes to be encouraging to people who find traveling intimidating; informative as we showcase the different culinary arts, landscapes, and cultures; and inspiring to women travelers to be bold and adventurous, and have fun in the process!