Melissa Lam-McCarthy joined the Global Food Research Program at UNC team as a Project Coordinator after working as a Business Services Coordinator/EA and Executive Assistant at MEASURE Evaluation, both in the Carolina Population Center. Her additional global health experience was at PATH in Washington D.C. in the HIV/TB Global Program. She received a B.A. in Anthropology and B.A. in East Asian Studies from the University of Virginia and a Culinary Arts degree from the International Culinary Center in New York City. She worked in the food and restaurant industry as a line cook, specialty food sales representative, and assistant cheesemaker. Melissa is currently a MPH student at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health in the Nutrition concentration. Her areas of interest are improving food policies and systems, reducing health disparities and increasing culturally relevant food access to improve nutrition.
The craziest things I’ve ever eaten are… fugu (pufferfish) and whale. I taught English in a rural island community off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan. Traditionally, these islands depended on seafood diet, including using the whole whale. I didn’t know I was eating whale for first time because it was on skewer, breaded and fried and because the chef at small Japanese pub thought it would be a fun surprise to tell me after I ate it. It tasted like slightly fishy beef. Another surprise was when I ate sashimi (raw fish) at a teachers’ banquet and was told casually that I was eating fugu, which is a poisonous pufferfish that requires a licensed chef to prepare it because its organs are 200 times more deadly than cyanide. It was delicious and I lived to talk about it.
The first thing I learned to cook was… helping my mom and dad fold wonton for family meals and prepare Chinese, Hawaiian, and Thai food to sell at street fairs. They instilled a passion for cooking and eating food and taught me so much.
My favorite combination of food and drink is… anything with tea and coffee. I love a great dim sum meal with hot tea in small handle less cups. I also equally love an afternoon tea experience with tea sandwiches, scones and sweet treats. I used to work at a French bakery/bistro as a barista and I love a delicious pastry with hot tea or coffee.
When I’m in a time crunch, I love to make… a cheese and charcuterie board. We have a drawer in the lower part of the refrigerator with a rotating collection. I just slice and arrange it with fruit, crackers and spreads. There is a dinner or snack done!