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On My Block’s Jason Genao On Searching for Adobo and Loving Julia Child

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In Here We Are, artist Martine Thompson explores what it means to care for oneself in a world that doesn’t make it so easy. Up next, a conversation with actor and cooking enthusiast Jason Genao.

Jason Genao is the kind of person you’d be happy to slip into random conversation with at a party. Our conversation ebbs and flows, touching on the emotional toll of being an actor and starring on Netflix’s hit show On My Block, the special place his Dominican heritage holds in his heart, and his passion for food.

When it comes to the Jersey City native’s love for cooking, part of the magic, he says, is being there and getting to see the satisfaction wash over someone’s face as they enjoy a dish he’s put together with care. It’s a reprieve from the uncertainty of pouring your heart out, releasing it, and never quite knowing how the people consuming it are feeling that accompanies acting. “I think all actors are super insecure, and the insecurity lies there, in not knowing. So when it comes to cooking, it kind of calms your nerves—when a person takes that first bite, you can see their reaction right there. It’s very different.”

If one thing’s for certain after talking with Jason, it’s that he’s just getting started. Like many artists, there’s a heap of skills and interests waiting to be explored that I imagine will be harnessed across a range of mediums in the coming years. He’s growing, living life, and tapping more into his gifts and confidence each day. The sky’s the limit.

Below, I caught up with Jason about tender moments centered around family and Dominican food, what self-care looks like when being vulnerable is an essential part of your job, and what it’s been like for the East Coast native to find a Caribbean community in Los Angeles.

Hey Jason! How has life in quarantine been treating you?

Jason: You know what, I have such a big family so I’ve been doing pretty well during quarantine. I currently live in L.A. but I went back to Jersey. We’re just holding each other down, you know? Playing dominoes, and doing what Spanish people do.

My mom’s been asking me to play dominoes and I’m like uhhhhh…

Jason: Do it with her, I’m telling you.

(Laughs) It seems so boring…

Jason: What? No. Are you crazy?! Our domino games would last for hours and it would turn into these pots of hundreds of dollars where the winner would get the money in the middle.

Are you guys sharing stories in between or is everyone just focused on the game?

Jason: Oh my god. They shared so many stories. My father has 14 brothers and sisters and they all grew up in the Dominican Republic. I don’t know much about my dad—we’re not that close because he worked so much. So, I was like tell me about my dad, to my aunts and stuff, and they started telling me the craziest stories. So now I have this idea in my head that I should write a book about the Genao family history.

That would be amazing—and then maybe it would be adapted. We need more Dominican stories.

Jason: 100 percent.

I was checking out your Instagram which is very lowkey. What does a real glimpse into your life look like?

Jason: I get so much flack for not being active on Instagram. It’s this crazy thing where people feel like if you don’t post, you’re not doing much. And I’m like, doing everything and anything possible, but because I don’t post, people love to ask me, “Why don’t you go do this and do that?” I’m there, trust me, I’m just like, ‘no pictures, please.’

Ha, I did not doubt you! I did not doubt that you were booked and busy, and living life. Let’s talk food! Before your focus was on acting, you were on the path to pursuing cooking as a career. Why was that a fit for you?

Jason: Cooking was something that was tangible. When I lived in an apartment building, I lived in 1L and my aunt lived in 1R. She was this amazing cook. Every day I’d go over and she’d tell me to help her, even if it was just like peeling a cucumber, or something like that. I became so infatuated with cooking.

What was one of your favorite things to eat together?

Jason: Locrio de longaniza. My mom, god bless her, isn’t the best cook—

Jason: I didn’t throw her under the bus. She knows I’m not the biggest fan, and I pre-warned her that it might come up one day. She also didn’t cook that many things. In my whole twenty years living at home, there’s like five things she cooked: rice and beans, or rice mixed with beans, and then either chicken, pork or steak all seasoned the same way. That’s what I was used to, then my aunt made this thing called locrio de longaniza, which is rice with Dominican sausage in it. It was the craziest moment. I remember tasting it and being like, can I have more? And then when her husband came home and he ate, and there was still food leftover, I asked, “Tía can I have more now that everybody ate?” It was the craziest thing I ever tasted. I was really young and it was the first thing that was so different. After that I was like, let’s do this.

Do you mostly make a certain type of food?

Jason: I started out with Dominican food because that’s all the ingredients we had in the house. But I remember I saw the movie Julie & Julia, with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, and I became obsessed. My brother bought me the whole collection of Mastering The Art of French Cooking and I got really into French cooking. I was around 12 years old, so I’d call my dad, like, could you bring this or could you bring that? Or I’d tell my brother that I’d cook if he could just take me to the grocery store. I was experiencing new herbs that weren’t typically Hispanic—such as sage and basil—and ingredients that I’d only ever heard of like curry powder and gochujang. And then I started going to a fancy market and would buy things like foie gras and truffle oil, and make truffle mac ‘n’ cheese and pan-seared foie gras. And now I’ve sort of fallen into this realm where I mix French and Dominican cuisine.

That kind of reminds me of Kelis and how she’s explored different areas of her interests with singing and going to culinary school, and starting a sauce line. Maybe exploring food will be one of your next chapters down the road…

Jason: I have 100 chapters to go through. Right now, I’m in the process of writing, so my next chapter is writing. But I mean I’m never not cooking, whether it’s at the house or through other things. I’ve been looking into food trucks just because I want to venture out small and see what happens, and eventually maybe have a restaurant. If I could, I would be like one of those ladies who cook from their house and then bring a little cart with pre-made plates to the barber shop. That’s how much I love cooking.

How do you deal with coming from the East Coast, where there’s such a big Caribbean community and Dominican presence, to Los Angeles, where it’s sort of the polar opposite?

Jason: Oh my god, it’s crazy. I remember when I came here, I couldn’t even find adobo. [The supermarket chain] Ralphs didn’t have it; all these places didn’t have it. I had to go to this Hispanic place that my friend put me onto called Vallarta. That’s where I found it, and I remember I bought like five, and mojos. I was like let me get this shit, LA does not know at all. My first year in LA, I became so homesick that I went through this whole journey one day of trying to find Dominican food on UberEats and it just wasn’t happening for me. I’ve learned to become the Caribbean culture for myself and the people around me. I know that I’m not going to find it too much out here. I have Dominican and Caribbean friends, but when it comes to cooking, I’m like, come over and I’ll cook. And we’ll have really Hispanic food for the day because we just had a bunch of sushi and stuff the day before. Like, let’s Dominican this night up.

Those are some of the best times. Just being in a comfortable space you create with your loved ones—enjoying good food and good company.

Jason: Exactly.

Let’s talk acting. I love On My Block. Acting as a profession seems so vulnerable, from the auditioning process to oftentimes portraying heavy emotions in front of, and alongside, strangers. What does self-care look like for you when putting yourself out there emotionally is such a regular part of your job?

Jason: For me, it’s really important to learn how to balance out the negative thoughts. That’s been my biggest issue and has taken the most self-care work. It is vulnerable being out there every day, going through a million no’s just for the one yes. Whether it’s through therapy or learning how to do it on your own, I think it’s important to maintain this sense of clarity that you’re here for certain purposes or you want certain things, and that there’s processes to get through all of it.

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The Eater Guide on How to Help During the Crisis

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Not all that long ago it seemed like if the pandemic weren’t exactly over by now, then at least the worst of it would be. But the summer didn’t make things any simpler. Cases continued to spread, and fires and hurricanes ravaged the West and Gulf Coast. As the weather turned colder, more states began allowing indoor activities and face-to-face school. As a result, the virus appears to be surging once more. It is increasingly clear that not only will thousands more Americans likely die as a direct result of COVID-19 by the end of 2020, but the mass misery of the economic devastation it has unleashed — suffering disproportionately endured by Black and Latinx communities — will not lift anytime soon. 

Benefits like the federal $600 a week unemployment expansion ran out or contracted for more than 25 million Americans in July and the federal government has failed to agree on the terms of a new aid package. Organizations that provide food and housing assistance to low-income people across the country, already strained by the last several months of the pandemic and the government’s appallingly incompetent — and at times malevolent — response, are scrambling to meet a tidal wave of need. As roughly 40 percent of restaurants on the brink of closing forever, programs that aid people in the food industry are also seeking further support so they can continue to provide assistance to worker who remain unemployed or underemployed. Groups representing Indigenous communities, undocumented immigrants, farmworkers, and people of color are also mobilizing to get assistance to marginalized people and lay a foundation for a more resilient food system — because while it’s an extraordinary time of need, it’s also not new. 

Hunger and poverty have always been the U.S.’s most shameful open secrets. Despite being the wealthiest country in the world, as of 2018 more than 13 percent of people in the U.S. lived below the poverty level, according to the Census Bureau, while a full 78 percent of U.S. workers lived paycheck to paycheck. The pandemic and its economic fallout have put those statistics into ever starker relief, as the nation’s working class and its poorest residents have faced the largest health burden from the virus. Several studies have estimated that pandemic-related job losses and increased food costs have roughly doubled food insecurity in the U.S., and No Kid Hungry estimates that one quarter of children around the country could face food insecurity in 2020 due to the novel coronavirus. 

In this guide, Eater has identified a range of programs, organizations, and charities fighting hunger, developing sustainable food networks, and providing support to the roughly 31 million people who are unemployed or are working less than they’d like to be due to this global medical disaster. These are places that are stepping in to do work in their communities where governments and elected officials have left people behind. Collected here are opportunities for giving and volunteering in and around the United States and its territories, at both the national and the local level, as well as in the U.K. Editors have done their best to vet the charities included here, but it’s always important to make sure when you give money or time that the organization you’re supporting aligns with your values and has a transparent, proven track record. If you only have time or resources to give, give it, but monetary donations — especially those offered over an extended period — can be even more impactful because charities tend to know where the greatest need is. If you’ve chosen a group and aren’t sure what’s the best way to help, it’s worth reaching out and asking.

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Trump Teases an ‘EPIC’ Election Night Party at His D.C. Hotel Despite Capacity Limits

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Despite D.C.’s ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on large gatherings, President Donald Trump’s campaign has teased plans to host a party for election night on Tuesday, November 3, at the Trump International Hotel downtown. Fundraising emails from Donald Trump Jr. include details on a “sweepstakes” to fly a supporter to D.C. for a party described in all-caps as “EPIC,” “ELECTRIC,” and “INCREDIBLE.”

Under D.C.’s Phase 2 reopening restrictions, mass gatherings are capped at a maximum capacity of 50 people. Restaurants are still limited to half-capacity seating with no standing and no countertop service from bartenders. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser says she wasn’t aware of plans for the party until Monday, October 26, Washingtonian reports.

The location of the election night party is unclear, but the opulent hotel has multiple ballrooms and event spaces. The hotel includes a location of celebrity chef David Burke’s BLT Prime steakhouse. Lobby-level bar Benjamin serves $23 glasses of sangria and $120 seafood towers. Nearby, more affordable pub Harry’s has already seen pro-Trump crowds openly flouting mask requirements and other protocols meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus. Trump has consistently downplayed the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic. After he survived a case, Trump told Americans, “Don’t let it dominate your life.”

On election night four years ago, the recently opened hotel was the site of an impromptu and raucous gathering for supporters watching the numbers roll in on large TVs framing its gold bar. The controversial Pennsylvania Avenue hotel near the White House has been sold out for weeks on and around Election Day at rates going for $1,200 a night, the Associated Press reports.

The fine print in the sweepstakes notes the campaign can move the date of the trip and the location of the hotel stay at its discretion. The prize also includes a photo op with Trump. The supposedly randomly chosen winner, who is subject to a background check, will be responsible for all ground transportation, meals, and all other expenses during the duration of the trip.

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Eater Staffers Pick Their Favorite Instant Pot Recipes

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Now that we are over the sourdough-and-regrowing-scallions part of the pandemic, but in no way over the actual pandemic, we must prepare for The Hunkering. Every winter is a time for stews, roasts, and hearty pasta bakes, but this winter it feels extra important, both because most of us are going to be indoors way more than any previous season, and have completely lost the energy to do anything but throw a bunch of stuff in a pot. Which obviously means it’s time to break out the Instant Pots.

A few years ago it seemed like electric multicookers, especially the Instant Pot, may have just been a fad. But the fact that in one appliance you can cook anything from soup to pudding to bread makes it pretty ideal for cooking during quarantine fatigue. Eater’s staffers rounded up our favorite go-to Instant Pot recipes, perfect for the many nights when you’re in the mood for something delicious, but you know, wanting to do as little as possible to make it happen. And as Eater Dallas and Eater Houston editor Amy McCarthy noted, you could always go with “just some fucking chicken breasts,” and let the machine do the rest.


Beef barley soup: This is the first that comes to mind. It’s basically a textbook version of this classic soup, and perfect for chilly weather. It’s low-lift, reasonably quick to put together, and freezes well. — Missy Frederick, cities director

Dakbokkeumtang: I make this recipe when I’m craving a savory chicken dish with the volume turned up. All that delicious flavor comes from the sauce. It’s a perfect balance of sweet and spicy from gochujang and sugar. Doenjang and oyster sauce adds another layer of depth. Typically to make this Korean comfort dish, you would need to watch over the pot, making sure that the chicken pieces are soaking up the sauce. But everything is done in the Instant Pot, so the result is fall-off-the-bone, tender chicken with potatoes that just break apart with no effort at all. Also, who doesn’t love a dump-everything-and-press-the-button recipe?! — James Park, social media manager

Mac and cheese: I make this one once a week when I’m lazy and cooking sounds hard. I use whatever cheese is in the fridge, add a little brown mustard to the mix, and usually skip the milk or add it at the very end. Would suggest you grate the mozzarella or it becomes a blob. — Brenna Houck, editor at Eater Detroit

Chinese poached whole chicken: Basically, I get a whole chicken every week, and I got tired of roasting it. This recipe is a really easy — not entirely foolproof, but a good enough way to poach a chicken whole in about 40 to 50 minutes, with not too much work on my part. You can use it specifically as white-cut chicken over rice with, say, a ginger scallion sauce, but just as often I pull the meat off the carcass and use it for meals throughout the week. Two caveats: You really do need an instant-read thermometer to tell when it’s done, and I find it’s much better to salt the chicken 24 hours in advance (I use the method in Salt Fat Acid Heat), so it has enough taste. And after poaching the chicken and pulling off the meat, I often toss the carcass right back into its cooking liquid, cook it on manual for another 60 minutes, and end up with a bunch of chicken stock. — Meghan McCarron, special correspondent

Kosha mangsho: This is a traditional Bengali goat or lamb stew in a heavily spiced, yogurt gravy, and it’s intensely rich and comforting. This recipe uses a pressure cooker to save time, but on the offchance you landed on this page and don’t have an Instant Pot or the like, you can still just simmer it in a large pot. — Jaya Saxena, staff writer

Lemongrass coconut chicken: The sauce is unbelievably tasty for just a few ingredients and it comes together so quickly. The labor to flavor ratio makes it one of my go-tos when I get bored with cooking or can’t be bothered to put in much effort. It’s also great over rice or any other grain. — Brittanie Shey, Eater Houston and Eater Dallas associate editor

Basic chicken noodle soup: I make a basic chicken noodle soup in the Instant Pot probably every week in the winter: The base recipe is two chicken breasts, a carton and a half of broth, a few cups (I eyeball it) roughly chopped diced celery, carrot, and onion, and whatever spices you want. Cook everything together on high pressure for 25 mins. You can quick-release the pressure and remove the chicken breasts, and shred them — while you’re shredding, set the pot’s saute function so the broth remains boiling and add egg noodles. Once the noodles are cooked, dump the shredded chicken back in and you’re done! This is perfect because frozen chicken works just as well (and at the same cook time), and you can experiment with any leafy greens at the end (throw them in when you add the noodles) and any noodle types you want. — Erin DeJesus, lead editor, Eater.com

Pork chile verde: This recipe is very good; I found it last year when I had a truckload of tomatillos from my garden. It is a great comfort food and works well as stew or tacos. — Brenna Houck, Editor at Eater Detroit

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