Among many celebrity chefs that color America’s culinary world, Martin Yan is the most prominent figure in promoting Chinese food, combining it with modern twists and solution for practical and easy cooking. His cheerful character helps him to become one of the most recognizable chefs in TV, especially with his famous show ‘Wok with Yan.’ While most people know him from his appearance in TV shows, Chef Yan is a genius and renowned figure in the world of Chinese and Cantonese culinary.
Martin Yan has been exposed to the world of culinary and fresh products since very tender age. Born in Guangzhou on December 22nd 1948, Martin Yan has a father who is a famous restaurant owner and a mother who is a grocer. Therefore, he has been familiar with the world of cooking and fresh products since he was very young. However, he only started to cook seriously at the age of 12 and mostly learned to cook Cantonese and Shanghai food which is his root.
Martin Yan then decided that cooking is his way, and so when he moved to Hong Kong in 1961, he started working part time in his uncle’s Chinese barbeque restaurant to support his college as well as to learn more about Chinese cuisine. His experience here would further increase his cooking repertoire in Chinese culinary.
Later, he continued his cooking study, first at Overseas Institute of Cookery in Hong Kong, and then University of California where he got Master Degree in 1975, in food science field. However, only after 3 years did people start to recognize him.
The Fame Time
At first, he worked at the same university where he got his Master Degree as teacher, but in 1978, he started his first cooking show called Yan Can Cook, which quickly became a huge hit. Basically, the show concept is like traveling cooking, in which Chef Yan travels to various places and interacts with people, and then he will talk about the area’s specialty or specific features before creating dishes that are related to the areas he visit. Not only tourist destinations, in one episode, he even traveled to a jailhouse.
Yan Can Cook was one of the biggest hits in the 70’s cooking show, and it has been broadcasted to several counties including Indonesia. His recipes and his cheerful personality helped launching his name into public eyes. Until now, he has been a guest to more than 3,000 cooking shows in America and Asia. He even served as a judge in an episode of Hell’s Kitchen.
Yan’s Role in Chinese Cuisine
Martin Yan is considered a pioneer in introducing the richness of Chinese culinary world to the Western world. According to him, while Chinese food definitely already got a good place in Western world’s tables, many people still have no idea that ‘Chinese food’ does not encompass the richness of that culinary tradition.
There are so many variations in Chinese food according to regions, and each has its own characteristics. Therefore, Chef Martin Yan has made it his mission to introduce the more complex and sophisticated Chinese foods to public, including telling them about Cantonese, Shanghai, Beijing, Sichuan and Xian cuisines.
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