Interview with Diana Kuan of Plate & Pencil

Food and design are basically the two things we won’t stop talking about. And babies, I guess, because Brooklyn is unofficially ruled by toddlers. Anyhoo, we are thrilled to introduce you to a local entrepreneur who is incredibly talented in both departments: Diana Kuan.


You may know Diana from her cooking classes around town, her book The Chinese Takeout Cookbook, and her writing in publications like Food & Wine, The Boston Globe, or her fantastic blog Appetite for China. As if that weren’t enough to put us all to shame, Diana launched a new venture a few months ago with Plate and Pencil, an online gift shop featuring unique designs inspired by her favorite international cuisines. Diana tells us about her new venture, her ideal dinner, and her favorite spots in Park Slope.


When was Plate and Pencil officially launched? What made you take the leap?
Plate & Pencil launched in early December of 2013. I had been teaching dumpling-making classes and other cooking classes for a few years and had always been fascinated by how so many cultures around the world have dumplings of some kind in their cuisine. So I decided to design a Dumplings Around the World tote bag on a whim. Which, of course, led to other food-inspired design ideas. I knew that there was a great opportunity to launch the shop with the upcoming holiday season, and after pulling many late nights and dealing with various setbacks, finally launched the second week of December.

How are you combining your ‘cooking’ self with your new venture with Plate and Pencil?
Before enrolling in culinary school in New York, I had studied art and design back in Boston. Even though the culinary career was a bit of a departure, I realized when I was working on my cookbook and blog and organizing pop-up dinners and cooking classes that the parts I enjoyed most was creating the visual elements, including photography and graphic design. So I realized that opening a shop that sold totes, tees, prints, and home goods with food-inspired designs was pretty much my dream come true.


Where do you get your inspiration from?
Everywhere! Dishes I teach in my cooking classes, stuff I make for dinner, favorite alcoholic beverages, etc, are all fair game for becoming illustrations. I spend a lot of time just wandering around the city, so I always keep my eye open for interesting typefaces and color combos that could be worked into the designs.

What’s your ideal dinner menu?
Buttermilk roast chicken with rosemary roasted potatoes, finished off with homemade ice cream or cookies. Or just dumplings. Of any kind.

Your favorite dessert when you were little?
Cookie and brownie edges.

What are your plans for the next few months?
To continue building up inventory for the shop and teaching cooking classes. I’d also love to do more markets in Brooklyn. They’re a great way to talk with people and get instant feedback on your products.

What are some of your favorite spots in your neighborhood?
I live in Park Slope, which is my ideal neighborhood for all sorts of reasons. I love going to the Grand Army Greenmarket on Saturdays and hanging out at local restaurants and watering holes, including Thistle Hill Tavern, Rose Water, The Double Windsor, and Greenwood Park. Also, there are great shops like Annie’s Blue Ribbon General Store and Paper Source, where I spend way too much time and money.


You will find Plate and Pencil at our upcoming Brooklyn Holiday Bazaar on December 14th. Check out the growing collection at the Plate and Pencil online shop.