A Conversation with Chef Ken Hom and Louisa Chu

June 4, 2011

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Louisa Chu and Chef Ken Hom

Ken Hom--the Chinese-American chef, television personality, best-selling author, philanthropist, and world traveler--grew up extremely poor in Chicago. He started working when he was 11 years old, washing dishes at King Wah restaurant. It was there on Chinatown’s Wentworth Avenue that the owner--a family friend he called his uncle--first taught him to cook.

Hom later studied art at the University of California-Berkeley. To help pay his tuition he gave cooking lessons--at first, private Italian pasta-making classes and, later, Chinese cooking at the new California Culinary Academy. One of his many notable students was a young Charlie Trotter; another protégé was Ming Tsai.

Hom's first bestselling book, Chinese Cookery, was published in 1984 and has never gone out of print. It has sold over one million copies in 14 translations. This companion book to the BBC television series of the same name established Hom's career. He has written 30 books on Chinese, Thai, and "East-West" cooking, and he has hosted five award-winning television series for the BBC and Korean stations. His latest book, Ken Hom--Complete Chinese Cookbook, will be released in the U.S. in September 2011.

As for Hom's line of cookware, over seven million of his woks and accessories have sold in 59 countries worldwide since 1986. "One in every eight households in the U.K. now has a Ken Hom wok," he said during a visit to Chicago.

Listen in and learn more about Ken Hom while he is interviewed by his friend Louisa Chu.

Chu is a chef and writer. She’s currently the Chicago editor for BlackboardEats. Her work has appeared in Gourmet, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, and on the Food Network, Travel Channel, and PBS. She graduated from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, trained in restaurants around the world including El Bulli, Alain Ducasse in Paris, and Alinea, but first learned to cook in her family’s Chinese-American chop suey restaurants in Chicago.

Recorded Friday, June 3, 2011 at Kendall College.