A Visit to The Culinary Institute of America

The Culinary Institute of America is well regarded as the best culinary school in the United States. I was always curious on how the school cultivated many of the world’s most successful chefs.

During a visit to The Culinary Institute of America’s California campus, I was able to find some clues.  Continue reading

2016 International Youth Food Culture Contest

On a cool summer evening two years ago, a boy I befriended at his father’s fruit stand in the farmer’s market showed me his drawing pad. Having just immigrated to the U.S. not long ago, he did not speak much English. But from the green papayas and golden rice fields he painted, I saw the world he came from.

At around the same time, a seemingly ordinary image on Food Network caught my attention: A young girl in a remote, poverty-stricken village in Southeast Asia was clinging to a picture she drew — a picture of local produce. Her face was beaming with the happiest smile. On the side of her drawing, a few words were neatly written which translated to: I love to cook. Instantly, my heart lightened up. I might not know which language this girl spoke or where her village was, but I could feel her joy, pride, and hope—the language of food is universal.  Continue reading

When Technology Comes to the Dining Table

By now, we have all become familiar with touch screen devices in airports, libraries, and other service facilities. But have you used a small screen at a restaurant table to order food, play games, and pay bills?

Today, upon arriving at the Olive Garden Restaurant in Fremont, California, I saw a cute, little device sitting on every dining table. The touch-screen device called “Ziosk” is the latest gadget that allows customers to study menus, make orders, call servers, pay bills and even play games at the tips of their fingers. I tried it for the first time. It turned out to be simple, convenient—and fun!  Continue reading

A Taiwanese Dim Sum Experience in Silicon Valley

I have long heard about Din Tai Fung, a popular international chain restaurant known for its exquisite steamed soup dumplings (“XiaoLongBao”) and other dim sum dishes. Originated from Taiwan, the chain now has many locations throughout Asia, the U.S. and Australia. The restaurants are usually situated in trendy shopping malls and bustling business centers.  Continue reading

A Visit to the Birthplace of California Cuisine

Whether you live in California or not, you probably have heard the term “California Cuisine.” What exactly does California Cuisine refer to in popular food culture?

In the book Culture and Customs of the United States: Culture (Shearer, Benjamin F., Greenwood Publishing Group, 2007, Pages 212-213), culture expert Benjamin F. Shearer summarized the features of California Cuisine with two phrases: “locally grown fresh ingredients” and “a fusion of tastes from all over the world.” Indeed, in popular food literature and review, California Cuisine is always associated with freshly prepared local ingredients and internationally influenced fusion dishesContinue reading

Things I Learned After the E. Coli Scare

Recently, an E. coli outbreak sickened dozens of people in eleven states, causing the shut-down of forty-three locations of a major restaurant chain. Around the same time, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced a nationwide recall of approximately 167,427 pounds of ground beef products for suspected E. coli contamination. Rampant fear spanned across the country, causing paranoia and anxiety among millions.

In today’s well-established, streamlined food processing and distribution industry, how do E. coli and other food-borne pathogens enter and spread in our food chains? What can we do to help improve food safety? With these questions in mind, I visited a large factory farm and a food processing center here in California. After some open-minded talks with the workers, I found some interesting facts which reveal vulnerabilities in the existing commercial food chain.

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What’s in a Chef’s Garden?

The idea of a chef’s garden has always been alluring to me. I used to imagine a small patch of land cultivated for the growth of a few vegetables and herbs needed by a nearby restaurant. But what are the benefits of a chef’s garden? What’s exactly in a chef’s garden?

On a weekend trip to Big Sur in Northern California, I got the chance to visit a thriving chef’s garden in the Post Ranch Inn near Highway 1. It turns out that there are far more varieties of vegetables and herbs in a chef’s garden than I had always thought.

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Good Food Knows No Boundaries – Tidbits from the Summer

Summer is a time to explore new experiences. This summer, while staying and traveling in the Midwest and the Northeast, I got to find and enjoy a variety of amazingly authentic foods in places I never would have expected. Good food knows no boundaries—nor do our appetites.  Continue reading

Celebrating the Diversity and Creativity of Street Food – San Francisco Street Food Festival

On a sunny summer day, you leisurely stroll amid the aroma from hundreds of food stands, craving for each and every exotic item engulfing your palate. And sure, you can have them – and have them all if you want – quickly and conveniently.

This is the scene at the San Francisco Street Food Festival where my friends and I frolicked today. Featured more than 100 different specialty and ethnic foods representing the best in Northern California, the festival celebrates the dynamic culture of street food while showcasing a variety of exotic fusion and ethnic foods originating from all over the world.

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