An Afternoon with Master Chef Martin Yan.

We didn’t cook a SINGLE thing today!  Our entire day ended up being taken up by Chef Martin Yan himself, and even with no cooking, it was by far one of the best days I’ve had in culinary school to date.

We started class with a two hour lecture, and a really interesting conversation about the politics, religion, economy, etc. of Korea, Japan, and the Philippines – and how those factors have affected their food and culture.  My chef instructor is absolutely fascinating, and I just want to sit and listen to him all day long.  He has travelled the world and has so many interesting stories.  I have learned so much already in just three short days!

After lecture, we headed to Hance Auditorium for the Martin Yan demo!  I couldn’t believe how tiny he was in person – barely as tall as me!  I got a great seat right on the center aisle, and as always, I was so glad I had my camera.

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Chef Yan started by telling us about himself, about his years hosting Yan Can Cook on PBS, and about his experiences in the culinary industry.  He was a captivating speaker and very entertaining.

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He started by showing us a variety of Asian products – some common, like soy sauce, and some less common, like dried bean curd!        

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He actually passed some of the products around the large auditorium so that each student could smell and experience the ingredients up close.  He was a very hands-on educator, which I loved.  This was Szechuan pepper, which smelled amaaazing.

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Dried bean curd, which he said was very typical in Chinese vegetarian dishes.  Apparently it is a dried form of tofu?  I want to try it!

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Last but not least, a nice fragrant bowl of fresh seaweed!  This bowl smelled like it came right out of the ocean…

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Next he moved on to show us his amazing knife skills.  I have never seen such precision before!  He was able to shave vegetables so thin that when he placed them over the labels on products, you were able to read right through to the label – pretty impressive.

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Check out that crazy butcher’s knife!  He said that big knives like that are all that the Chinese chefs use, and that they serve as multipurpose tools.  Based on what I saw him do with his, I can’t even imagine how sharp that knife must have been…

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The next part of his presentation was the actual cooking demo.  He made three dishes for us – steamed tofu and black bean sauce, green tea smoked salmon, and kung pao chicken – yum!

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Like I said, he was a very hands-on teachers, so as each dish was finished, he had students come down to sample his food.

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I’m never really one to jump up for things like that, but one of my classmates did, and she gave me a bite of the steamed tofu and black bean sauce when she came back.  It was not only delicious, it was pretty cool to be eating Martin Yan’s food :) 

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At the end of the session, he gave his closing remarks and opened the floor to questions and answers.  He finished his demo with his classic line, “If Yan can cook, so can YOU!”

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On my way out of the auditorium, I snuck to the front of the room and got a shot of all of his ingredients.  This made me want Chinese food again – ugh! 

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When we went out into the lobby, I was surprised to find out that they were doing a book signing for two of his cookbooks!  One of my fabulous classmates offered to buy me one since I didn’t have my wallet with me – thanks, Jeff!

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I picked up Martin Yan’s China, and I can’t wait to try some of the recipes.  Obviously there are a lot of meat dishes, but I have gotten very good at making substitutions, and there are a good number of vegetarian dishes as well. 

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We got in line to get our books signed – it was so cool to see him up close and in person.  He is so nice and approachable, and wanted to spent time with every student.

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I also snuck another picture of the beautiful orchids from last night’s dinner – wish I could take them home with me…

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Finally it was my turn to meet Chef Yan!  It’s funny – I’ve never actually been a big autograph person, but when I saw that we could meet him and get pictures, my first thought was – the blog readers will love this!  I know a lot of you guys are Yan fans, and I assure you he is just as great in person as he seems on TV – definitely not one of those cocky celebrity chef types.

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He signed my book…

To Chef Emily:  talented, exiting, gorgeous, sensuous, and the future star chef – Martin Yan

Gorgeous?  Thanks, Martin!  Sensuous?  Wow, we just met…  :)

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Me and my buddy – Master Chef Martin Yan


The entire experience was really fun, and will definitely be one of my favorite lasting memories of culinary school.  I found myself sitting there at one point thinking, “I can’t believe I get to do stuff like this every day!” – definitely made me appreciate the opportunity I’ve been given. 

I know the rest of my last term is going to fly past.  It’s all about perspective, and now I plan to appreciate every day of the next ten weeks as much as I appreciated today.

(Note: I took some really cool VIDEOS today, that for some reason aren’t uploading – hoping to get that fixed and get them to you tonight!)