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A chef's recipe for culinary and cultural exchange

By Ye Jun | China Daily | Updated: 2012-06-04 14:55

Martin Yan, host of the popular cooking show Yan Can Cook, believes Chinese and Western chefs are learning from one another.

The judge of the 2012 World Master Chef Championship in Jiangyin, Jiangsu province, is an American, who was born in China. He's been back to the country once every six weeks for the last several months, for an explicit purpose.

"I've brought a group of American chefs here for cooking exchange with local Western cuisine chefs," he says.

"Local chefs will cook some dishes, and the American chefs will prepare dishes with the same ingredients later."

Yan says he's a bridge between cultures and their respective cuisines.

"Many chefs are good at cooking but not at communicating," he says.

Yan speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese.

"I've been taking film crews into China to introduce the best foods here overseas," he says.

He believes the World Master Chef Championship is one of the region's highest level cooking contests. The large number of participants posed a big challenge for organizers.

"Cooking competitions abroad typically have 50 chefs attending," he says.

A chef's recipe for culinary and cultural exchange

"But here, there are more than 300."

The location is another challenge. It was held in a former factory, in which cooking facilities were temporarily installed. It was a far cry from cooking in a hotel kitchen.

The number of contestants also poses a challenge for the judges. Yan recalls trying more than 100 dishes a day.

He hopes to introduce his TV program, which can be viewed in 60 countries, to China.

Yan says many Chinese and Western chefs are learning from each other and fusing culinary styles.

"The Chinese food arena is booming," he says.

"While foreigners mostly eat at a restaurant for special occasions, Chinese people dine out all the time. There are a lot of opportunities in the dining business."

Yan was born in Guangdong province and left for the United States at age 12.

He says he will introduce the best things in China to other countries, such as pu'er tea.

"People nowadays attach a lot of importance to food's health and security," he says.

"People can only be healthy if they eat well and live a regular life."

He believes people in Chinese mainland now have too much nightlife and not enough physical exercises.

"Health is the most important asset," he says. "In the past 25 years, my weight remained around 138 pounds (63 kilograms) and never exceeded 140 pounds. It is important to look at everyday life with an optimistic and normal heart, respect what you do and be happy about what you are."

Yan has been cooperating more with Chinese media.

"I hope my biggest contribution can be promoting exchanges between China and the West," he says.