“My Pasadena” by Acclaimed Fashion Photographer Yu Tsai

As a graduate of ArtCenter College of Design, acclaimed fashion photographer Yu Tsai has shot the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for an astounding 14 years (including seven covers); helped launch the careers of supermodels Kate Upton, Candice Swanepoel, and Elsa Hosk; was responsible for the career-making Guess ad campaigns from 2006–2019; and was the first photographer to shoot a tech campaign as if it were fashion, taking the Apple iPod Shuffle and turning it into an accessory. His career has since evolved to becoming a judge on Asia’s Next Top Model, having his own food documentary show, Street to Kitchen Asia with Yu Tsai, and, finally, launching his own hot sauce brand, Only Crack Sauce, last year, which after being endorsed by friend and fellow foodie, Chrissy Teigen, sold out within 24 hours. Here, this globe-trotting creative and entrepreneur shares his city.

When I was in school, from 1995-1998, I lived on Charing Cross Road, in a little English Tudor home I rented a room in.

After living in West Hollywood for the last 15 years, I just bought a house in Sierra Madre, by the golf course. My sister and my godson are in Pasadena, and I wanted to be closer to them.

I love that Pasadena has grown into an incredible metropolitan city, but I can still find a hole-in-the-wall dumpling restaurant. There’s a great blend of generations old and new, and there’s a strong amount of racial diversity.

I always need my farmer’s market! I’ll be at the one by Pasadena High, and the 99 Ranch grocery store.

The Equator Café [which has evolved into Edwin Mills by Equator] is one place I’ll never forget. It was a little coffee shop just like Central Perk on Friends. It makes me want to go back in time and re-live those college days.

The Norton Simon Museum was the first time I was exposed to renaissance art—the carvings, the paintings…it was amazing visual exposure.

I love that Pasadena still has bookstores. Whitmore Rare Books has always been a favorite. You can walk in and smell the history.

Saladang’s was owned by a friend’s mom. It bloomed into something really sophisticated today, but we used to go there every Friday night in college.

At Art Center, I was a teacher’s assistant, and I worked at the school library, but 50% of my money-earning time was actually at the Petco on Arroyo Parkway. (I had previously wanted to be a vet.)

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