Martin Yan Interview by Kate Heyhoe
Kate: What's next on your agenda?
Martin: This next six months, I have to do 125 television shows and I have three book projects going on. And these are shows I'm doing all around the world, it's not just here. Some are in China, some in Hong Kong, some here and some in Singapore. This is another Yan Can Cook series, and this is Yan Can Cook in Chinese and Yan Can Cook in Mandarin. These are for different audiences—the Yan Can Cook show is for the English audience, the Cantonese cooking show is for the Cantonese audience, the Mandarin show is for the Mandarin audience.
Kate: You are going to do these in those languages?
Martin: Yes, I do the Mandarin show in Singapore, the Cantonese in China... I speak four different dialects.
Kate: and you learned those when you lived in China?
Martin: No I have been a gypsy since I was young, so I always lived with somebody. If I lived with somebody who speaks Mandarin, then I learn how to speak Mandarin. If I live with someone who speaks Toisan, then I speak Toisan. I left home when I was thirteen, so I've been traveling around and working in restaurants all over.
Kate: You left your mother when you were thirteen, your wonderful mother who you always talk about? How is your mom?
Martin: Oh my mom is terrific. Every year she stays with me for about six months. She still tells me I'm not a very good cook! (laughter).
Kate: She must be really great!
Martin: Yeah, she's good! But I said, Mom, I can cut faster than you. But she cooks by instinct and intuition. When she adds ingredients, she doesn't measure. Jacques' mom never measures. She just does it for fun, she does it by instinct. If she believed this is what she liked, she'd just put in it.
Kate: That's from the heart. As you said, when you are balanced, that's where it comes from. And you said you have new books you are working on?
Martin: I'm working on a brand new Yan Can Cook show called Yan Can Cook: The Best of Chinatown. So we want to feature Chinatown, where we show people how to eat, how to order from the menu, what kind of food. And if they have health problems, how to recommend that they can have less salt or ask them not to put MSG on this or that. It's going to have a lot of tips, like Culinary Journey through China, it's going to have a lot of tips.
Kate: That's great—last time we spoke you told me you had this idea but not to tell anyone. So I didn't, but now that you are already working on it, we can share it, right?
Martin: Yes—because we are already working on it and I don't think anyone can do a show as fast as we put one together. And just like any project, anybody has the opportunity to do it and to do a great job. Fortunately the Yan Can Cook show has been on the air for 18 years now and we have built up a strong following. So we have been fortunate in that sense. People will watch us, unless we are doing a lousy job. That's why I don't want to do a lousy job. That's why I want to plan it well. We have already done a lot of work on Yan Can Cook: The Best of Chinatown, and we're going to do Chinatown around the world, not just in America. In Canada, we picked Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, all with large Chinatown areas. And then we picked Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and perhaps Houston. And this way we can also talk about the food in different places. And we're also going to do London, Sydney, and Tokyo. They all have big Chinatowns.
Kate: It all sounds fascinating, and we wish you luck. Once last question: It's the Year of the Rat coming up. Any New Year comments?
Martin: The people born in the year of the Rat are born with great charm and they strive to produce the best things in life. They are very hard working and thrifty people. Also, they are very honest and ambitious. I wish you and your audience the best in the New Year, and Gung Hay Fat Choy! which means good health, happiness and good fortune.
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This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Modified October 2007
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