Ken Hom OBE (traditional Chinese: 譚榮輝; simplified Chinese: 谭荣辉; pinyin: Tán Rónghuī, born May 3, 1949) : Biography
Ken Hom, who resides in France and in Thailand but travels tirelessly all over the world, continues to appear regularly as celebrity chef, write new books and keep an involvement with restaurants worldwide. An ambassador of the GREAT Campaign, the government’s international marketing campaign showcasing the best Britain has to offer, he has also lately been supporting the campaign at Milan Expo this year. Since its inception in 2012, and thanks to his supporters, the campaign has delivered a £1.2b return on investment up to March this year, and the UK is now expected to welcome 42m international visitors by 2020.
His recently opened 92-seat MEE restaurant located within the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, the city’s first luxury pan-Asian restaurant, has already been awarded one Michelin star less than 12 months since opening. His latest book – Truffles – released in November 2014, is the updated version of his book ‘Truffes’ first written in French in 2000 with Pierre-Jean Pebeyre of France’s legendary Pebeyre truffle family. Never before seen in the UK, it is now published in English, unveiling and dwelling in the mystery of the world’s most sought after scented ingredient, the black truffle, with enticing East-West recipes. The book has just won the Gourmand Award 2014 for ‘Best Mushroom Book’ category – USA. It now goes forward to the Gourmand’s global awards which will be presented in June 2015.
More on Ken Hom – His last BBC TV series: Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure, and accompanying book quickly established themselves as the culinary hits of Summer 2012, and were both award winners in 2013. Shown at the peak viewing time of Sunday night, during the UK’s Olympic year, when no other culinary programme had traditionally been shown, the series attracted an unprecedented number of viewers. Travelling over 15,000 km and with over five weeks of filming in China, Ken said: ‘During filming I learnt and discovered so may new tastes and flavours which continue to inspire my recipes and meals. Part of the joy of filming was going not only to great restaurants, but into real homes, joining in and cooking with the family’.
In 2009 he was awarded with an honorary OBE for ‘services to culinary arts’, recognising his achievements and the impressive social and historical impact he made on the way the UK has ‘adopted’ Chinese cuisine, which has now become one of the nation’s favourites. In 2007, he was awarded with an honorary doctorate from Oxford Brookes University for his ‘outstanding success within the international food world’ and to recognise him as one of the world’s most notable chefs with a highly successful career in the media, as an entrepreneur and as a supporter of charity and education. At that time he was also appointed as Founding Patron of Oxford Gastronomica, the Centre for Food, Drink and Culture at Oxford Brookes University.
Since 2008, he has become an ambassador for Action Against Hunger, the humanitarian charity which works in over 40 countries helping families to feed their children and build a sustainable life. Ken Hom also tirelessly supports several other charities, including Prostate Cancer UK, raising awareness of the need for early detections. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2010 and has since made a successful and full recovery.
Widely regarded as one the world’s greatest authorities on oriental cooking, he presented a documentary on the origins of noodles, ‘The Noodle Road’. This five part documentary series for KBS (Korean Broadcasting Service) was a huge success when broadcasted in early 2009 and the series has been sold to over 25 countries around the world, winning several awards, including the prestigious Peabody Award in 2010.
Between 2008 and 2013 he fronted a restaurant, Maison Chin, located within the Bandara Hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. It became known as ‘the best new modern Asian cuisine’ restaurant and won a string of awards, including being named by Thailand Tatler ‘one of Thailand’s Best Restaurants 2009.’
In November 2009, he launched his own range of Chinese Meals exclusively in Tesco. Of very high quality and with no additives, the range now comprises of 30 dishes and has become one of Tesco’s top selling ranges. Meanwhile, the Ken Hom wok continues to sell around 300,000 per year, with one in seven households in the UK owning a Ken Hom wok. His name is so intrinsically connected with the wok, that recently the BBC cookery programme ‘Saturday Kitchen’ affectionately described Ken Hom as ‘half man, half wok’.
His roots – Ken was born in 1949 in Tucson, Arizona where his Cantonese father lived after emigrating to America in the 1920’s. His mother later emigrated from China in late 1948. After losing his father when he was just eight months old, his mother moved to Chicago to be with relatives. As Ken grew up, he found American food unpalatable compared to his mother’s cooking so she used to send him to school with a flask of hot rice and stir-fried vegetables.
Aged 11, he went to work in his uncle’s restaurant, where he earned the equivalent of 30 pence per day. At 20 he headed off to California to study art history and French history. To pay for his university fees he started to give cookery lessons and quickly realised that this was where his heart really was – especially with his native Chinese cuisine. He soon started teaching first in his home, and then at the California Culinary Academy (a school for professional chefs in San Francisco). He also travelled to France and Italy to explore gastronomy further.
The start of his career – His first book on Chinese cookery techniques was published in 1981 to much acclaim and then the New York Times published a major profile on him. Ken still regards the book and the NY Times article as one of the turning points in his career. From there, he landed his first television series in 1983 – Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery which bore the same title as the book that many still regard as the ‘bible’. The show introduced and demystified Chinese cooking for the UK over 30 years ago, and was an instant hit, transmitted throughout the world. The book accompanying the series became a bible for anyone who wanted to learn Chinese cuisine and sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide. At the time of publication, it made publishing history by being the first non-fiction book with a first printing of 350,000. In 2009, the BBC celebrated the 25th anniversary of the book, which continues to be a top-seller after more than three decades in print. Since that first success, Ken Hom he has written 36 books, many translated in more than 16 languages, with a total of 80 books published worldwide in all translated editions. He presented a further five television series – Hot Chefs, Ken Hom’s Hot Wok, Ken Hom’s Foolproof Chinese Cookery, and Travels with a Hot Wok, which attracted millions of viewers.
With over eight million woks sold worldwide and with one in seven Britons owing a Ken Hom wok, he also had and continues to have a great impact on the UK economy.
He has worked as a consultant for hotels, restaurants and airlines and has cooked personally for presidents, prime ministers, celebrities and royalty. visit: Ken’s Web Site www.kenhom.com Twitter Facebook
His interests include travel, wine, cycling, swimming, British TV, reading and football events (he is a Manchester United supporter).
Ken Hom: Awards & Honours
- Honorary Member of the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women 2010
- Honorary OBE by HM The Queen for services to the culinary arts 2009
- Honorary doctorate from Oxford Brookes University 2007
- Appointed Founding Patron of Oxford Gastronomica: the Centre for Food, Drink and Culture 2007
- Honorary Member of The 48 Group Club 2002
- Honorary Chairperson of The Institute for the Advancement of the Science & Art of Chinese Cuisine 1993
- Inducted in the prestigious Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America as recognition of significant and lasting achievement in the culinary industry, 1990
In Ken Hom’s Name
- Annual Ken Hom Lecture series at Oxford Brookes University
- Ken Hom Writer in Residence Fellowship at Oxford Brookes University
- The Ken Hom Collection at the Oxford Brookes University Library
Literary & Broadcast Recognitions
- Guild of Food Writers Awards 2013 – Food Broadcast of the Year for Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure (BBC2)
- Gourmand International Awards 2013 Cookbook – ‘Best in the World’ award for the Culinary Travel Category for Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure (with Ching He Huang) (Paris Cookbook Fair)
- Prestigious Peabody Award for Noodle Road TV documentary series for KBS Television 2010
- Noodle Road nominated for best TV documentary of New York Film Festival, 2010
- Grand Prize Winner – Korea’s Producer Award for Noodle Road 2009
- Grand Prize Winner Documentary – ABU Awards 2009
- Ken Hom’s Quick Wok (Headline Books, 2001) – Cookbook of the Year from Food and Wine Magazine, USA
- Truffes, avec Pierre-Jean Pebeyere (Hachette 2000) – Shortlisted for Prix Litteraire de la Gastronomie Antonin Careme
- Easy Family Dishes: A Memoirs with Recipes (BBC Books, 1998) – Winner of the Andre Simon Memorial Book of Year 1998
- The Taste of China (Pavilion Books, 1990) – Shortlisted for Andre Simon Memorial Book of Year 1990
- Ken Hom’s East Meets West Cuisine (Macmillan 1987) in hardback and paperback – Shortlisted for Andre Simon Memorial Book of Year 1987
- One Michelin star achieved in March 2015 for his restaurant MEE located within the Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro. MEE is now among the top six restaurants in Rio to win one Michelin star and currently there are no two or three stars awarded in the town.
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