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Escape the Mundane

April 4, 2013
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Alumna launches project highlighting travel, food, good storytelling

Story by Billy Liggett

With the production of every Escapelicious episode, says an excited Elaine Lee ('06) in the New Year video posted for fans of her latest venture, “I’m getting closer to my dream of travelling the world.”

That dream has taken Lee a long way already.

The Maylasian-born graduate of Campbell University is set to launch online episodes of Escapelicious, a cooking program that’s just as much about storytelling and learning new cultures as it is the food. The brainchild of Lee and fellow Campbell alumnus Wee Wan, Escapelicious sends Lee to the homes and kitchens of some of New York City’s best chefs to not only learn the secrets to their best dishes, but also about their homeland and the stories that brought them to the United States.

“It’s creating an escape from the mundane and an exploration of what life is like outside of our own world,” said Lee, explaining the genesis for the name Escapelicious. “Each episode is a little escape for me. Food plays a big part in every culture. Cooking is just the vehicle to learn about these cultures.”

Lee knows a lot about learning new cultures. She was introduced to life in the U.S. in 2005 when she transferred from Campbell University’s program at Tunku Abdul Rahman College in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to the school’s Buies Creek campus to study communications and broadcasting. At Campbell, she took several television production courses and became affiliated with the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities and its film study program in Los Angeles for a semester.

“Since I was little, I’ve wanted to pursue a career in filmmaking, and I viewed Campbell as my door to explore and pursue my dream,” Lee said.

But in order to stay in the states and work toward her goals, Lee needed a paying job right out of school. Upon graduation, she went to work for a New York-based advertising agency focused on the Asian-American market. It was there she met Wan, a Campbell graduate and producer of “Better Body and Soul,” which airs on Asian-American networks in New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Wan convinced Lee to stick with advertising but spend her free time pursuing her dream.

“He told me, ‘I know you love the lifestyle here and pursuing the American dream,’” Lee said. “He talked some sense into me and told me to use the skills I have, my filmmaking background and my equipment to get started. Start small, and with hard work and effort, anything’s possible. That’s the beauty of America.”

Though she comes off as a natural, Lee had never been in front of the camera, but she and Wan agreed she needed to be the face of Escapelicious for it to truly be her project. Before Lee knew it, she was travelling the world inside the comfy confines of New York City, filming episodes with chefs from Jamaica, Italy and places in between.

“Sometimes the best way to do things is to just do them. Don’t overthink it,” Lee said. “I have a tendency to overthink things, but I know nothing is ever perfect. And if you mess up, you just tweak it on the way.”

With a handful of episodes down and a few more to go, Lee said her site, escapelicious.com, will begin airing the full episodes later this year. Her goal is to launch it all online first then pursue sponsors and any networks that may be interested in picking up the show or her idea.

In five years, Lee, who’s 27, sees herself either doing her own show (think “No Reservations” with Anthony Bourdain) or running her own venture that utilizes her talents and lives up to her lofty goals.

“I have big ideas … some I’m not ready to share just yet,” Lee said with a laugh. “I just want to explore and keep learning. Keep improving myself. More than anything, I want to help others like me and set them on the right path to follow their dreams.”

Want to find out more about Escapelicious and see the recipes? Click here!

 

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