Before Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay and the birth of the “Celebrity Chef” culture, cooking shows were broadcasted into every home by Martin Yan, a chef who has been cooking up delectable dishes for audiences on television for over four decades. “Yan Can Cook, So Can You!” has been the motto of the chef extraordinaire who is widely recognised from Shanghai to San Francisco. Promoting Chinese cuisine, making it easy for the cook and tasty for the guests has been his life-long mission. Martin Yan can be credited with introducing Asian cuisine and cooking techniques into millions of homes worldwide. A valued instructor at top culinary institutions, he founded the Yan Can Cooking School in California in 1985 and then in 2007, founded The Martin Yan Culinary Arts Center, a unique international culinary academy for professional chefs in Shenzhen, China. Besides teaching the culinary arts, Chef Yan is also a restaurateur and the recipient of numerous awards and accolades. Chef Martin Yan is not only one of the Asian Food Channel’s (AFC) most popular celebrity chefs, he also stars in his own *AFC Original Production Martin Yan’s Asian Favourites.
“If this isn’t your passion, don’t spend money at a culinary school to do something that you might end up quitting.”
As a certified Master Chef, highly respected food consultant, and a prolific author, he has written 30 cookbooks, his latest being “Martin Yan’s China”. Yan once said in an interview that the secret to his success is simple, “I just follow my nose, my instinct, and do the things that I am passionate about.” Passion and his love to share are the simple ingredients that fuel his successful empire. With the support of AFC, Inspire magazine had the privilege of asking Chef Yan a few questions regarding his perspective on various aspects of the Food & Beverage industry.
*Catch Martin Yan’s Asian Favourites every Thursday at 9pm on AFC
Watching Martin Yan on TV, you not only show the audience how to cook up a wonderful meal, you also infect them with lots of positive energy through your humour and passion. How do you manage to stay happy all the time? What is your philosophy in life?
You know if you live life fully and follow your passions, you’re all set. I get to do that everyday by cooking for the people I love and sharing that with the viewers. It’s the simple things that make me happy, and at the end of the day – food tastes better when it’s shared and being able to share my passion for cooking is the best thing that could happen.
This issue of Inspire magazine talks about the challenges and opportunities in the food industry. You are not only one of the world’s most renowned chefs, but also the owner of many successful restaurants. What do you think is the one most essential ingredient needed to run a successful restaurant?
One of the most essential ingredients to running a successful restaurant is attention to detail in all aspects; both front and back of house, food quality, presentation, serving, customer service, and clean up.
Being a chef can be one of the most gruelling professions in the world; you are always under pressure, you work odd hours, and you have to deal with the “heat” on many different levels. What is your advice for people wanting to get into this profession and what does it take to succeed as a chef?
I always believe that if you love to create, that you are an artist by nature. By honing your creativity, you can be a much better cook. Another thing is, you must have tremendous passion for what you’re doing. If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life! Young people always think “Wow, I can do that,” after watching chefs on TV, but I say, don’t try to be somebody else. If this isn’t your passion, don’t spend money at a culinary school to do something that you might end up quitting.
You have stayed relevant to your audience for the last few decades on television. How do you continue being creative; and how have you managed to come up with new concepts and recipes through the years?
I might not look it, but the pressure of working under the spotlight is enormous, and my show would not have lasted 35 years if my energy level had gone unchecked. To keep healthy and sharp, I do my workouts with a resistance band, just about 50 times in the morning and at night, and I travel with it to do my daily exercises in the hotel room.
I love creating by nature, so I get much of my recipe influences from my travels and the wonderful people I meet along the way. I always find ways to incorporate these flavors and cooking methods into new recipes. You can find some of my recipe creations in my new series, Martin Yan’s Asian Favorites on Asian Food Channel. In the show, I whip up my own version of dishes such as Malaysian Fish Head Noodles, Thai Chicken and Eggplant Green Curry, and Singaporean Chili Crab over Rice Noodles.
“I always believe that if you love to create, that you are an artist by nature. By honing your creativity, you can be a much better cook.”
Currently, the name Martin Yan represents a pioneer in the food industry, a celebrity chef and a food ambassador. However, history will remember you as more than all of the above but as an iconic figure who has bridged the cultural difference between the East and West through the sharing of food recipes to millions of people. How would you personally like to be remembered?
It has never been about fame and fortune for me – but if there is one thing I would like to be remembered for – it would be my passion to share the wonders of food and culture with the rest of the world.
This article is proudly brought to you with support from Asian Food Channel.