Wesley Radez wants you to stop and connect to Chinese culture.
Radez is the founder of Red Bean Box, a food subscription service that aims to bring delicious, natural and gourmet Chinese snacks to its subscribers each month, along with photos and information on Chinese culture. The August box celebrated Mid-Autumn Festival on Sept. 8 with moon cake, fine tea and assorted snacks. It also included information on the holiday’s origins, how it is celebrated and an original photo of a Toishanese farmer harvesting rice.
“Whether they’re working in an office or at home with a child, we want to help people connect with their Chinese heritage and culture during moments of peace and reflection,” Radez said.
The name “Red Bean Box” comes from the red beans found in so many Chinese treats and is intended to reflect the playful nature of the business. Food evoked many childhood memories for Radez, who spent several months in Hong Kong learning Chinese with his wife. When their son was born in June 2013, Radez’s dream of sharing Chinese culture with his child took the form of Red Bean Box. After months of planning and laying out the groundwork of the service, the first boxes were shipped in March from Oakland, Calif.
“Our mission is very simple: to help people connect with Chinese culture in their daily lives,” Radez said. “It’s designed to be a fun and easy way to incorporate Chinese culture as young professionals and families.”
Radez grew up in Connecticut with an American father and a Chinese mother, then moved to California for college. He found other Chinese Americans who wanted to pass on their Chinese culture to the next generation, but were removed from their cultural background. In interviews with 30 individuals of Chinese descent — comprising those from families with one Chinese parent or with both parents from Hong Kong, Taiwan or China — food was a common denominator. “The reason I started with food and snacks was [that] over the course of interviews, the primary cultural touchstone was food,” Radez said. “It was a positive thing to identify with.”
As a child, Radez was sometimes uncomfortable about his bi-racial heritage.”I grew up in a community that wasn’t heavily Chinese,” Radez said. “As a kid, your overwhelming desire is to fit in, make friends and get along. You’re resistant to pursue things that make you different. The classic story is being forced to go to Chinese school on weekends, which is a reminder you’re really different. … As an adult, you look backward and realize you don’t know any Chinese. It’s time to make stewarding our cultural inheritance more fun and contemporary.”
Red Bean Box doesn’t make its own snacks; rather, it positions its product as a lifestyle choice. While Radez raves about the snacks, all personally taste-tested with his team, he hopes subscribers ultimately use Red Bean Box as a platform to share their culture with loved ones. Radez’s own mother is extremely proud of his work, which has sparked conversation about their shared family history.
“The snacks let you sneak a moment to enjoy mooncake between meetings and PowerPoint presentations during your consulting job. Or it might inspire you to call up Mom and ask about her memories,” Radez said. “Your connection to culture is a choice and day-to-day reality.”
For more information about Red Bean Box, visit www.redbeanbox.com.