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Finding Traditional Food A Hurdle For Pirates International Players



Ji Hwan Bae, Pittsburgh Pirates

In talking with members of the Pirates’ organization who hail from outside the United States, a common theme arose when they told me about how they acclimated to life in America.

Pirates’ farmhand Po-Yu Chen of Taoyuan City, Taiwan pitched for the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2023. He said that beyond obvious obstacles like language barriers, he struggled to get used to American food options.

With the dishes he’d grown up with in Taiwan not available on a widespread—or satisfactory—basis, Chen said he’s relied heavily on Chipotle Mexican Grill for meals since he began playing in the United States. It’s one of the few American brands he’s found consistent success with.

Pirates’ utility player Ji-hwan Bae, who’s from Daegu, South Korea, said that he followed a similar path during his journey through the minor leagues. 

“Right now it’s the big leagues, so it might be better, but before I remember I ate Chick-fil-A a lot,” Bae said. “It’s hard to find the food that I want, it was so different.”

Fraudulent Foods

Bae said that just because a restaurant offers Korean food doesn’t mean it’s the authentic stuff he’s looking for. He often doesn’t have any other option, though. 

“I would say big cities: LA, New York, Chicago, it’s good. But not popular cities for Koreans, I feel like [there are] a lot of fakes,” Bae said. “I’m still eating that because there’s no better choice, but I really enjoy when we go on the road, big cities.”

To compensate, Bae said he’s starting to prioritize cooking on his own, which helps him bridge the divide.

“Now I’ve got some experience, so I’m trying to cook too. I’m looking at the grocery store first, then Korean restaurants,” Bae said. “I do a lot of Korean food, because there’s a lot of YouTube recipes. Kimchi stew, it’s like the most traditional food for us. It’s easy, there’s a lot of meal kits now. So you just put it in, and boom.”

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