Simu Liu On Chinese Food, Investments, And Life Beyond Barbie

Food & Drink

Between becoming Marvel’s first Asian superhero and one of Barbie’s many ultra-famous Kens (see: the most anticipated blockbuster of the year), Simu Liu wasn’t sure he had enough on his plate.

Quite literally. This week, the Shang-Chi actor announced he would be joining MìLà, previously known as Xiao Chi Jie, as Chief Content Officer, looking to take the Chinese food brand’s soup dumplings, noodles, sauces, and ice creams to new heights.

And, at one point, he was just as surprised as you are.

“A year ago my parents intercepted a MìLà delivery meant for me while I was traveling,” Liu tells me, ‘but by the time I got back, my parents had eaten the entire bag of soup dumplings!”

Liu became an angel investor in the company’s first funding round shortly thereafter, trusting his parents’ seal of approval, without having tried a single dumpling.

“I later had the opportunity to meet the cofounders, Jen and Caleb, and learned more about their mission to bring Chinese food to wider audiences,” he says.

Equal parts personal and investable, their mission really resonated with Liu.

“Overcoming misconceptions about our food and increasing an understanding and appreciation for Chinese cuisine is something I’m very passionate about,” he says. “Food is one of our primary cultural access points, through which flavors and stories are shared and exchanged.”

And MìLà, he felt, had the perfect business model to do exactly that.

To guarantee restaurant-quality soup dumplings (and more) could be delivered to any doorstep in America, the company opted to ship every item with dry ice, ensuring freshness for several days.

“They could even theoretically sit on a front porch if you happened to be out of town,” he says.

When co-founders Jennifer Liao (Jen) and Caleb Wang (Caleb) first started, they personally drove and delivered every order. Now, hundreds to thousands of deliveries go out each day across the US.

This announcement not only comes on the heels of MìLà’s $22.5 million Series A raise, led by Stripes and Imaginary Ventures, but the company’s rebrand.

“They were discussing the rebrand for quite some time,” says Liu. “When I first spoke with them, they shared more about spreading the brand’s mission with a new name that spoke to third culture and the coming together of different flavors.”

Rooted from the Chinese words for honey (mì 蜜) and spice (là 辣), MìLà reflects the founders’ experiences of being “third culture” kids: both Chinese and American, not either/or.

“This is something that really resonates with me and the new name speaks to a feeling the three of us have all experienced.”

You can feel his passion for this brand, this mission, more with every word. Modest as he is, Liu has the undeniable star power of someone who could make aa success of just about anything. The kind that could sit back, attach their name to something already-global, and make a small fortune.

But that’s not Simu Liu.

“While it’s exciting and thrilling to be wanted, it has always been of the utmost importance to me to never endorse or become an ambassador for something I did not love and completely stand by,” he says.

“I’m particularly excited about my appointment to the MiLa exec team because it truly feels like I am a key decision maker that is helping to guide and grow the business.”

As Chief Content Officer, Liu will play an active role in the business, partnering on creative strategy and driving major initiatives, as well as acting as its ambassador.

Of course, it’s not his only ‘day job’. He’s filming an Amazon Prime feature (Grand Death Lotto), promoting the long-awaited release of the Barbie trailer, and working tirelessly on dreams that extend far beyond life in front of the camera.

“It’s probably not surprising to anyone that I have aspirations to start a production company that specializes in acquiring Asian and AAPI-specific IP and adapting it for screen,” he tells me. “Our community has been in the midst of a celebratory era during which we are finally starting to feel seen. We need to take control of our narratives and continue to champion our own storytelling if this momentum is to continue.”

With all the sincerity in the world, he tells me he wants to push untold stories forward so the next generation of “third culture kids” aren’t faced with the same experiences he grew up with, of not seeing themselves—or stories they relate to—celebrated outside of their own communities.

“I am optimistic that we are evolving beyond the sweet-and-sour chicken ball era of Chinese food in America,” he tells me.

And you know it means much more than soup dumplings.

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