Hi. I’m Jeff. Welcome.

About Me

I wear several different hats to cover my coarse Chinese hair, which requires too much product to tame: Writer, reporter, and editor. Co-host, with my dear friend Sarah Bessey, of Evolving Faith. Editor-at-large at Travel+Leisure. Teacher-in-Residence at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where my husband and I recently moved. (Neither of us has ever lived in the Midwest. Snow tires are a revelation!) Before that, I was a seminarian at Princeton Theological Seminary and a farmhand at PTS’s Farminary. Don’t be deceived, though… When I got to the Farminary, a 21-acre experiment in sustainable agriculture that doubles as the world’s best classroom, I didn’t know anything about farming and I had far more experience killing plants than growing and nurturing them. But my work on the farm was transformative. More than anything else in my life, that land taught me about the story of life, death, and new life that God has written into creation.

Before seminary, I was a full-time journalist. Most recently, I was a contributing editor at Modern Farmer (R.I.P., print edition). I was also on staff at Fast Company for almost eight years. During that time, I edited, wrote, and reported on lots of different things. The ones I liked? International affairs (I led our award-winning coverage of China), fashion and design, the intersection of business and social justice. As far as I know, my stories have only gotten two people fired (I was not one of the two). Former senator John Warner once said to me, “You’re a good little interviewer!”

My reporting and writing have also appeared in a bunch of other places—The New York Times Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post. When big publishers were still starting magazines and pouring millions of dollars into them, I was an editor on the launch team of the now-defunct Conde Nast Portfolio. And before that, I spent seven years at Time magazine, where I really received my journalistic education. I was a London-based web producer and staff writer—my first cover story was on Britney Spears and her Swedish songwriter, Max Martin—and then a New York-based writer and editor. I still write regularly, mostly for Travel+Leisure.

I’m from California, and my loyalty to the Bay Area is such that I’ve sometimes only half-jokingly said that I would be in favor of Northern California seceding so that Los Angeles isn’t a part of us anymore. Sometimes, people ask, “But where are you really from?” I was born in California! And yes, racists and xenophobes, I know what you’re asking, and the answer is Hong Kong! My family is from Hong Kong!

I feel most at home reporting on religion (though the book was my first—and will probably be my only—major project on faith and sexuality, because you should see the emails people send you when you write about this stuff). My denominational history suggests that I have led a life of ecclesiastical promiscuity. My grandfather was a Baptist preacher, my uncle still is one, and my family is full of Sunday-school teachers, church pianists and organists, deacons, and the like. My high school was an allegedly nondenominational Christian one, though its roots were in the Christian Reformed tradition and we had some zany Bible classes. During my childhood, my family attended Baptist and PCA churches. Then, in college, I did the nondenominational-evangelical thing. In grad school and afterward, I went Anglican (I was living in England, so it seemed like the locally appropriate thing to do) and then stopped doing church altogether. Today, I call the Reformed Church in America (RCA) home. I was ordained an elder at Old First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, New York, and I am a candidate for ordination as a minister of Word and sacrament in the RCA’s Rockland-Westchester ClassisSome days, I believe in God; other days, I want to believe in God. 

I went to high school in Miami, at Westminster Christian, where I sat behind Alex Rodriguez in Mr. Warner’s world-history class. A graduate of Princeton and the London School of Economics, I’m a writer today largely because of two people: Carmen Gonzalez, my second- and third-grade teacher at Black Pine Circle Day School in Berkeley, California, who first taught me about storytelling, and Charlotte Grimes, whose one-semester journalism seminar at Princeton—the only journalism course I ever took—taught me that I was not a terrible reporter and might even someday be a good one. I was a 2004 Phillips Foundation journalism fellow (my project examined complaint in American history), a 2011-2012 French-American Foundation Young Leader, and a 2015 International Reporting Project fellow.

Sign up for my (free!) newsletter, Notes of a Make-Believe Farmer, at jeffchu.substack.com. You can also find a few other things I’ve written here: https://medium.com/@jeffchu

Likes: my husband, rice (especially fried rice, particularly my mom’s fried rice), the San Francisco 49ers (v mixed feelings about football tbh but it is what it is), postage stamps (they tell such beautiful little stories), the Oregon Ducks, wandering around new cities, the Oxford comma, clementines
Enneagram: 6 with a 5 wing
Heritage: 31/32 Chinese, 1/32 Portuguese
Favorite book of the Bible: Ecclesiastes
Favorite animal: Giraffe, because it is awkward and enigmatic
Alcohol of choice: Gin
Writing soundtrack: Audrey Assad, Troye Sivan, Beach House, Belle and Sebastian, the Killers, Alison Krauss, Westlife, random bits of EDM
Preferred writing implement: Waterman fountain pen, Serenity Blue ink (pretentious name—it used to be Florida Blue)
Dislikes: Marzipan, Comic Sans, beets, that smell that towels get when they’re not dried properly