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Martin Yan: A Prolific and Terrific Author

by Jacqueline M. Newman


Summer Volume: 2002 Issue: 9(2) page(s): 13 and 30

More than a dozen books, and well on his way to doubling that number, Martin Yan touts and teaches Chinese food; and he does so very often. Honored host of more than fifteen hundred cooking programs on TV, he has probably been watched in virtually every country in the world.

Born in Guangzhou China, this bundle of energy began learning how to cook when, as an early teen, he apprenticed in a Hong Kong restaurant. Since then, he has worked in many an eatery, and has gained many aspects of both the science and the art of cooking beginning at the Overseas Institute of Cookery in Hong Kong, where he earned a diploma in 1967. Some time later, he came to the United States, and has been living in the USA ever since. It was at the University of California, Davis, that he received a Masters Degree in Food Science in 1975. Ever traveling and learning, Martin was certified as a Master Chef in 1984, by Canada’s Ontario Restaurant Association.

You probably know Martin Yan through his TV programs aired on National Public Television; they were and still are called 'Yan Can Cook.' In the early days, he would tell great jokes and make much fun as he did so. More recently, he takes himself and the culinary of his birth-cuisine very seriously. He has taught as Chef Instructor at culinary schools such as the Culinary Institute of America, the California Culinary Academy, and Johnson and Wales; to name but a trio of places fortunate enough to have him entice their students to learn more about the cuisines of China and the rest of Asia.

Since 1989, Martin Yan has amassed a plateful of awards and recognition. Among the many, coast to coast, he earned the Anton Careme Award from the Chef’s Association of the Pacific Coast and an honorary Doctorate in Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island. And, he has earned others inside and outside of United States.

His books have won awards, as have his other areas of food journalism. We own what we believe was his first book, edited in 1981 for JFC International in Hong Kong. It is called The Oriental Classics Cookbook. Next, Martin went solo and for Doubleday, Canada, in 1981 he wrote and published The Yan Can Cook book to accompany his television series. The next year, Doubleday published his The Joy of Wokking, and two years after that in 1984, Random House, New York, published his Chinese Cooking: Step-by-Step Techniques.

In 1985, The Joy of Wokking was revised and enlarged and Doubleday, Canada and its counterpart in Garden City, New York both published Martin Yan, The Chinese Chef. The same publishers, in 1988 published A Wok for All Seasons. Martin’s efforts, through his visibility on television's Yan Can Cook show saw many of his other books go to press. The year 1988 was a prolific year and there were several product-labeled books including Martin Yan’s Favorite Recipes with Meyer Cookware. This particular volume highlights recipes from his National Public Television series.

Three years later, in 1991, Harlow and Ratner put out Everybody’s Wokking and the following year published The Well-Seasoned Wok. We were advised that the Culinary Connection of Singapore put out his next book, Simply Delicious, but no one seems to have a copy, not even the libraries we searched in that country. Should you, dear readers have one, we hope you will contact us and allow a peek.

In 1994, this energetic Chinese chef, using Yan Can Cook Inc. published A Simple Guide to Chinese Ingredients. He republished it for Bay Books in 1998. Then he took to the road in a big way. The following year he and and KQED Books and Tapes printed Martin Yan’s Culinary Journey Through China. In 1997, KQED published Martin Yan’s Asia as did Bay Books, and the following year Bay Books put out Martin Yan’s Feast. This was subtitled: The Best of Yan Can Cook. Its recipes were revised and updated, as needed.

In between these two years, Martin was busy doing projects large and small. The latter can best be illustrated mentioning a small item titled Martin Yan’s Favorite Recipes with the Aroma Rice Cooker. We are sure there were others, but here again, readers, we need your input as they do not appear on any bibliographic material, and none could be located on the world wide web.

In 1999, it was a banner year for Mr. Yan. Pavillion and Bay Books both published Martin Yan’s Invitation to Chinese Cooking in 1999 and 2000, respectively. IDG Books Worldwide put out Chinese Cooking for Dummies in 2000, and the Wan Li Book Company in Hong Kong published two new Yan culinary contributions: Martin Yan’s Cooking at Home and Martin Yan’s Entertainment at Home. Continually branching out, in the mid 1990's, Yan was spokesperson for various companies, probably the largest of them, the Hormel Food Company. Those of us who went to food shows, witnessed his using a plethora of western food products Chinese style, and Chinese ingredients either Western or Chinese style. He was a bundle of energy and did some lively presentations for these corporations that thousands had the opportunity to see, enjoy, and learn from.

In the year 2001, Ten Speed Press published Martin Yan’s Asian Favorites, a newer sign of his branching out. Blissful Cooking published in Singapore that same year was another outreach as it has five CD’s boxed with a cookbook and a pair of chopsticks. Mr. Yan is also consulting with restaurants abroad and in the United States. Earlier, he was a product manager for Amoy Canning Corporation in Hong Kong; that was in 1976 and 1977. He also founded the Yan Can International Cooking School in San Francisco California in 1985, hosted the Yan Can Cook show that started in the United States two years earlier, in 1983. Since 1995, has been host of Martin Yan’s Sizzling Wok Chinese-language cooking TV series.

Needless to say, Martin Yan savors his national and international recognition and reputation. He has a loyal following, continually improves and shares his artistry, teaching skills, knowledge, and his humor on TV, in books, and in person. Featured in this, our second spotlight, we thank him and Deh-tah Hsiung, our first honoree, and all who will follow, for what a public relations page about Martin Yan calls their ‘dedication to dispelling the mysteries of Chinese cooking and furthering the understanding and enjoyment of this excellent cuisine.’

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