This week, slick street-food startup Chairman Bao ― a mobile food truck devoted to Chinese buns ― is engaged in a SOMA soft-launch. But there's nothing soft about the reaction by New York City's Baohous, a Lower Manhattan snack shop specializing in gua bao, Taiwanese steamed buns ― including the Chairman Bao, filled with Niman Ranch pork belly braised with soy and cherry Coke. This morning on his blog Fresh Off the Boat, Baohaus owner Eddie Huang launched a blistering call to boycott S.F.'s Chairman Bao truck.
"I have no problem with people trying to sell gua bao, but if you're going to enter the market, be ORIGINAL," Huang wrote on his blog. "These people straight took the name of my #1 item and set-up shop with it. I have used the mark in commerce and shown the intent to trademark it. If anyone knows a good IP attorney, let me find out! BUT, I would prefer not to sue and just have these people stop using my name. Really, can you just name it Not-So Express Panda or some shit?"
Last night, Huang had tweeted with obvious anger: "@chairmantruck I am going to sue the living piss out of you. You unoriginal piece of shit."
Huang learned of the Chairman Bao truck from a post on Urban Daddy, which described its ties (through managing partner Mobi Munch) to local restaurant chain Pacific Catch and the Chicago superchef Charlie Trotter. The main sticking point for Huang seems to be the corporate nature of startup mobile food consulting company Mobi Munch.
"I'm 28 years old, I opened the restaurant last year, I did it all with my own money," Huang told us. "Street trucks are like independent businesses, many times ethnic. To co-opt something like this reeks of corporations." Huang says he's applied for trademarks for his menu items, but the process takes time. Baohaus's menu prints a "TM" next to Huang's Chairman Bao buns and other items. "It shows my intent to trademark," Huang said.
"The New York Times wrote an article about us<" he said. "That's a global newspaper, so when you Google 'Chairman Bao,' the first hit that comes up is my bun. Every business owner, they have to at least have done a Google search to see if anyone else has the name."
Huang said he just wants an apology from Mobi Munch, and for Chairman Bao to change its name. So far, his calls to the company have gone unanswered.
Follow us on Twitter: @SFoodie. Contact me at John.Birdsall@SFWeekly.com