NYU Alumni & Friends Connect

May 21, 2021

Madeline Park (CAS ’15, DEN ’18)

NYU alumna Madeline Park (CAS ’15, DEN ’18) is a prime example of left brain-right brain synergy. A Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) with an undergraduate degree in biology, Park took full advantage of both the arts and science offerings while studying at NYU’s College of Arts and Science. Add to that a whole lot of heart and a dash of social media savvy—she boasts nearly 400,000 followers on TikTok and more than 50,000 on Instagram—and you just might have the recipe for her success as a dentist, food blogger/vlogger, and most recently, philanthropist.  

Read our interview with Park below to find out what inspired her to cook up Cafe Maddy, her popular cooking blog/vlog focused on Korean-inspired recipes, and how she’s using her platform to support New York City’s Asian women, LGBTQ+, and elderly residents with Cafe Maddy Cab.

Madeline Park (CAS ’15, DEN ’18)

You majored in biology at NYU’s College of Arts and Science and earned your DDS from the College of Dentistry. What drove you to start a food blog?

The best part of my 7-year BA/DDS program was that I had the freedom to take any creative elective without trying to build a pre-dental heavy curriculum. While completing my biology major, I got my minor in studio art, took writing classes, and explored video art.

Though cooking is a hobby that sprung up later in my life, my creative interests in video and writing eventually came together in how I tell stories though food videos. I’ve always had my academic and professional life along with various creative outlets. Food blogging is just one that happened to build a large following.

Tell us how the events of 2020, particularly the COVID-19 pandemic, impacted Cafe Maddy?

Cafe Maddy was the silver lining of my 2020. COVID-19 led to multiple layoffs at the dental practices where I worked in NYC. In the thick of quarantining, I started cooking and creating videos at home. Several of my Korean recipe videos became viral on TikTok, and I soon began working on a Buzzfeed Tasty video. That’s where the food blogging started.

You recently started a new venture, Cafe Maddy Cab, in response to the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. Tell us about it.

I started an initiative called Cafe Maddy Cab early April after feeling unsafe and terrified on my commute to and from work because of the spike in Asian hate crimes in the city. I decided to take cabs to work instead and wanted to extend the same option to those taking the train because they couldn’t afford taxi fare.

The idea started when I thought about all the years I’d been a broke student in NYC. Back then, taxi rides were a luxury, and I would always take the train, walk, or call NYU Safe Ride from Bobst to save money. I hated the fact that so many other students could be risking their lives simply because they couldn’t afford cab rides in the city.

I started with the intention of using $2,000 of my own money to pay the fares of followers who saw my Instagram post. I also shared my Venmo information. Then people started to donate to the cause, and in two days, we raised over $102,000!

To date, we’ve raised over $140,000. We’ll continue to raise funds, but the program will have to come to an end when the funds are depleted, even if the crime rates have not gone down.

We’re also working with Lyft and Uber to set up a system that serves the Asian elderly community in NYC and speaking with the Asian American Federation to delegate funds to specialized organizations in NYC.

What’s one thing you haven’t tackled yet that’s still on your to-do list, short- or long-term?

I would love to eventually work on a cookbook! I also want to learn more in-depth Korean recipes.

The world looks much different for today’s college students versus when you graduated just a few years ago. If you could give one piece of advice to NYU’s graduating students, what would it be?

From what I can see from TikTok and the culture and movement emerging from the new generation, I think Gen Z is truly special. There’s a unique sense of acceptance, confidence, creativity, kindness, and entrepreneurship within the community.

Given we’re no longer in an era where our majors, resume, training, or internships necessarily shape our future, I want to encourage the members of the graduating class to be open to taking a less obvious path. Sometimes that path is the right one even if it isn’t what seems “right” with their background or education.

Share your most memorable moments from NYU.

This is random, but I always think back on my creative writing class. How such a diverse group of students from across the country sat in one class. Without hanging out or talking, we got to know each other through our writing and critique of each other’s work week after week. It was so special. And I still remember some of the poems and stories from my classmates, although I don’t know where they are now. I hope you guys are safe and well!