Wednesday 4 January 2015
Arguably the West’s most famous Chinese cookery expert, Ken Hom is hailed as the man who transformed wok cooking into an art form. He’s prepared dishes for royalty and countless celebrities, launched his own range of cooking sauces, pans, noodles and rice all on the back of his extensive culinary skills.
Ken was born during 1949 in Tuscon, Arizona to Taishanese parents who had emigrated to the USA during the 1920’s. He spent his childhood years in Chicago but he found American food unpalatable compared with his mother’s cooking, so she sent him to school with a flask of hot rice and stir-fried vegetables, much to the envy of his friends. By the time he was eleven he was helping out at his uncle’s Chinese restaurant at weekends and after school, an experience he refers to as his “culinary education”.
A growing interest in cuisine developed further at university in California where the astute student earned extra cash by giving cooking classes while pursuing a course in Art and French History. The course led to an extended stay in Aix-en- Provence where - relating to the French love of good food - he fell in love with the lifestyle. Years later he would return, and now owns a restored 11th-century property in the south west of the country.
It was around this time that, having enjoyed success with an Indian cooking series hosted by Delhi-born chef Madhur Jaffrey, the BBC was looking to launch a similar format with Chinese cuisine. After Madhur recommended Ken, having seen him give a class in California, TV bosses got in touch. When Ken Hom Chinese Cookery launched in 1984 it was a hugh success and helped establish a glittering career that would span three decades, through series such as Ken Hom’s Hot Wok and Foolproof Chinese Cookery.
As his profile grew, the Asian food star branched out, launching his own range of cooking utensils and high-end pans, steamers and woks. In 2000 he took time out from the TV cuisine scene, but was back on screens seven years later with Take On The Takeaway.
Now an international jet-setter, he splits his time between Thailand and his his home in France, where he regularly entertains high-profile pals like Tony and Cherie Blair.