newyorker.com – In 2008, Rich Cho, then an assistant general manager for the N.B.A.’s Oklahoma City Thunder, was scanning the menu of a Burmese restaurant in Los Angeles when he turned to a stranger next to him. Cho was born in Yangon, Myanmar; his parents immigrated to the United States in the mid-sixties, when he was young. “Do you know any other Burmese places in the area?” Cho asked. The man offered to take him to another place the next day. The following morning, they travelled eight miles east, to a house in Monterey Park, where, on a wooden porch built under a makeshift tent, Cho met an elderly Burmese woman named Bee Bee who was serving patrons dishes of soup and fish cooked on the stove of her home kitchen. It was “incredible,” Cho told me recently, over coffee in midtown Manhattan.
Cho has since become the first Asian-American general manager in the N.B.A., first of the Portland Trail Blazers, in 2010, and then of the Charlotte Hornets. He is also the founder of a food blog, Bigtime Bites. The site reviews dishes rather than restaurants, and it only covers food that people love. “You don’t have to sift through all the negativity,” Cho said, in between sips from a large black coffee cup adorned with the Bigtime Bites logo. On the site, dishes are graded according to both taste and presentation, and they are grouped into basketball-themed categories: a “rotation player” might be a desirable choice occasionally, depending on mood, whereas a “franchise player” is a good pick any day of the week.
Cho, who’s five feet ten and slightly built, was wearing Jordan-brand sweats. (Michael Jordan, who owns the Hornets, is his boss.) When I asked him how he stayed thin despite his passion for eating, he shrugged. Cho only sleeps about a four hours a night, and he doesn’t drink alcohol or eat breakfast. He’s worked in the N.B.A. for more than two decades, starting as an intern with the Seattle Supersonics while he was still in law school. (Previously, he’d spent five years working as an engineer at Boeing.) As he climbed the league’s corporate ladder, travel became a bigger and bigger part of his job, and, like many N.B.A. employees, he began relying on room service and chain restaurants. He started asking hotel concierges for recommendations and, sometimes, soliciting suggestions from strangers on the street. He jotted down listings in notebooks, and the blank pages filled up. He created an Instagram account for his food finds, which became a hit among his peers.
This is a dope story, I’ve heard nothing but good things about Cho. We’re going to have to try to get him on the podcast this year.