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The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

‘Bug Appetit’: Insect Tasting With Chef Joseph Yoon

Graphic: Emma Barrison

The Environmental Studies (ENST) department welcomed an unusual guest to campus on Friday, Nov. 11, to introduce students to the world of insect-eating, also known as entomophagy. Chef Joseph Yoon, founder of Brooklyn Bugs and Edible Insect Ambassador, has traveled around the world to make a case for eating insects as a sustainable, protein-filled food source. Although largely foreign to the American palate, bugs are a traditional food staple for 80 percent of countries in the world. Yoon aims to introduce edible insects into mainstream American cuisine while combating the stigma surrounding insect-eating in American culture. 

After giving an informative brown bag talk at noon, Yoon offered an additional tasting session later in the evening. The tasting was casual and intimate, giving students the opportunity to hear more about Yoon’s entrepreneurial journey and cooking process. A variety of dishes were served, including chocolate chip bites with mealworms, black ant guacamole and Yoon’s personal favorite, cricket kimchi.

Yoon first walked students through the complex flavor profiles of each insect he works with. 

“Black ants have formic acid that give a citrusy, acidic flavor. I paired this with the cricket powder, which has more of that nutty, umami flavor,” Yoon explained. “Together, it has a ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes people think, ‘What is that beautiful thing that I can’t put my finger on?’” 

Pairing the unfamiliar with the familiar is central to Yoon’s culinary approach. He crafts his innovative recipes based on flavors we know and love to ease people into trying insects for the first time. Yoon urged students to think deeply about how the natural flavors of insects can complement familiar recipes, instead of being a stand-alone focus of the dish.

“Imagine if I tell someone that I love garlic. Imagine that they then just take raw garlic and put it in their mouth, chew it up, and ask me, ‘How do you like garlic? This is disgusting.’ Well, I would just say, ‘I didn’t tell you to eat it raw. You have to cook it and release its natural sugars.’ […] Then we can begin to truly appreciate the garlic and add it into our dishes. I think we are at the stage of eating insects like we are eating raw garlic — it’s about finding balance,” said Yoon.  

Senior Corey McLaughlin approached the tasting itself with an open mind and immense curiosity. 

“Growing up in New Jersey, I never saw insect options in restaurants,” McLaughlin said. “But I’ve always been open to trying new foods, so I knew I would be willing to try the dishes at the tasting event.”

Eating insects as a sustainable alternative resonated deeply with many students. For junior Ava Benton, an environmental biology major and pescatarian, the high protein content in insects was the most appealing. Insects are higher in protein than most plant proteins, and some include more protein than chicken or eggs

“I think eating insects completely fits into sustainability,” Benton said. “Especially because it is not realistic for most people to give up meat completely, so maybe we should focus on just eating less meat or other types of meat. The protein in bugs is a serious option that lets people cut back on farmed meat.” 

Similarly, McLaughlin, who is an environmental economics major, described how insect eating aligned with her research interests on sustainable food sources. 

“​​I thought it would be really interesting to learn about entomophagy, since I’ve been researching sustainable shellfish farming and how our food industry should steer away from harmful agricultural practices,” McLaughlin said. 

Chef Yoon’s unique position in the culinary world and exploration with insects facilitated a lively discussion among students. Benton expressed admiration for how Yoon fused his culinary training with his passion for change, going beyond the role of a typical chef. 

“He doesn’t just want to be a chef, he wants to spread information about this and actively use his position as a platform,” Benton said. “He doesn’t just think people should eat bugs and try to push a philosophy — he is actively showing people how they can incorporate this into their lives.”

Next up on his impressive journey, Yoon is visiting Cornell University to continue educating students on a college tour. Yoon also shared that he is currently working on an insect cookbook that he hopes to release in the near future. Visit the Brooklyn Bugs website to learn more about Chef Joseph Yoon.

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