Ching He Huang is an International Emmy nominated TV chef and cookery author, who has positioned herself as a global ambassador of Chinese cooking. Ching experienced much in the world in her childhood, having been born in Taiwan and then raised in South Africa and the UK. Ching He Huang has a creative food ethos which centres on using fresh, organic and ethically sourced ingredients to create modern dishes that demonstrate a Chinese heritage, fusing tradition and innovation. Her career as a TV chef has spanned a whole decade, in which time Ching has been on a mission to transform people’s perceptions of Chinese food. Ching He Huang strives to bridge cultural understanding through food, making Chinese cooking accessible, healthy and nutritious, appealing to both the East and West. In her time on TV in the UK, some of Ching’s most popular shows include: Ching’s Kitchen, Chinese Food Made Easy, The Big Eat, as well as hosting two episodes of Saturday Kitchen Live. Her success in the UK has lead to a flourishing career on US TV, including multiple shows on the Cooking Channel, as well as presenting two series of Restaurant Redemption and numerous appearances on shows like The Today Show and Iron Chef America. Off of TV, Ching He Huang has published seven best-selling cookbooks, including Eat Clean: Wok Yourself to Health and Everyday Easy Chinese. Talking books with such a prolific and respected TV Chef was a real treat; so please enjoy my interview with Ching He Huang…
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I have to introduce myself first as ‘Ching’ (because no one can pronounce my name!) and I’m a Chinese cook!
I’m currently reading The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
As a very young child it was Cinderella – we were quite poor so I just wanted to transform my life. Later in my teens Wild Swans made a big impression, I was curious of my Chinese heritage, culture and identity.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
In my early years, a news presenter, an actor, doctor and weather girl – all of the above! Later, I just wanted to have an adventure – an extraordinary life and make my dreams come true.
As a child, what were your favourite meals?
I always craved my grandmothers cooking – simple fresh meals from Southern Taiwan. Anything with ‘Dou Fu Ru’ (fermented bean curd), sticky rice, braised pork belly, pickles and fresh bamboo shoots and I‘m happy.
What do you think your school aged self would think of the present day you?
I still haven’t grown up.
Can you remember the first meal you cooked by yourself?
Egg fried rice, which was a total disaster! It turned out to be a soupy porridge, the rice was too wet!
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be?
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
I love to read on the airplane, it’s my luxury quiet time, and I like to read on Sunday mornings when I have time to myself but I always feel I don’t have enough time to read all that I would like.
Which book has had the biggest impact on your career so far? How did it impact it?
I read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne in early Jan 2008 when I was filming my first BBC TV series. I put on my vision board that I wanted the accompanying book, Chinese Food Made Easy to reach no. 1. A few months later, the book went to no. 1 on the best-sellers list for 6 consecutive weeks! The messages in The Secret influenced my thinking and changed my life. Anything is possible!
What two pieces of advice would you give to someone aspiring for a career in food?
Work hard and never give up.
If you could only own three cookbooks, which would you pick and why?
My favourite cuisines are Chinese, Italian and French so China: The Cookbook by Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan, I admire such great work to gather all those regional Chinese recipes. Classic Italian Recipes by Anna De Conte for delicious Italian food, and The French Laundry Cookbook By Thomas Keller for inspiration on seeking perfection. But if there was a disaster I would have to save my three books – China Modern, Chinese Food Made Easy and Chinese Food in Minutes – they contain a lot of my grandmother’s recipes and I would be afraid to lose/forget them!
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I don’t have a preference, I enjoy both.
Do you think reading is important?
Absolutely! How else would we be able to expand our minds and imagination?
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
The One Thing by Gary Keller with Jay Papasan – it has helped me to focus a lot lately.
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
If you weren’t in food, what do you think you’d be doing?
Writing children’s books and selling my husband’s movie scripts.
Name a book that you feel everyone would benefit from reading and explain why.
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra – for anyone wanting to fulfil their dreams.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
The China Study By Dr. Colin T. Campbell – it showed me how diet directly affects our health. Following that, Clean by Dr. Alejandro Junger, which inspired to write my book Eat Clean: Wok Yourself to Health .
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
My dad wrote a book last year called Enlightenment – 60,000 Chinese characters. I still haven’t read it, am so ashamed. My Mandarin is not good enough. I also want to re-read Far From The Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, one of my favourite books.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
Any Chinese mandarin language books to further my mandarin. I need to make my Dad proud. And I love children’s books too.
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?