Ming Tsai entertained a large crowd of excited people in the Cooking Theater at the Show’s opening on Saturday. IHA caught up with the busy chef between appearances.
Tell us about your presentation today and the dish you prepared.
Chef: I always have a few goals when it comes to cooking demonstrations in Chicago. One is to teach people how to cook, but also, how to use products to cook with. And to me, its all about making sure people are using the right products to make the meals – it’s about making cooking easy so that people do it!
Today I made a cucumber saketini with Double Cross vodka (a cocktail), tempura shrimp with avocado and a ponzu dipping sauce, and seared peppercorn steak with red wine shitake pan sauce.
What is one of the most exciting new projects you’ve been working on?
Chef: Definitely working with the Home Shopping Network. I’ve been doing TV for over 20 years, but as I said, it’s important for me to get products into people’s hands that make cooking easy for them. I can do that with HSN – I just want to get people cooking. One of the best compliments that I can get as a chef is someone telling me that they’ve beaten up my cookbook – I love hearing that! And, people telling me that they’ve added their own touches. Because then they are really cooking, not just mimicking – they are making the dishes their own.
How do you find innovation for your cooking, and what inspires you to create a new dish?
Chef: I get my inspiration from authentic, “dive” restaurants on the street – Singapore, Bangkok … wherever I am travelling. The best way is to be invited by a family into someone’s home, where you can see how the family cooks, but otherwise, little, unknown dive restaurants, where I can be inspired by the food, taking the ideas and making them my own. I love nice restaurants, of course, such as Keller’s The French Laundry, but I can’t improve on those dishes. They’re amazing. They are completely inspired already.
Will you have a chance to walk the Show to look for new products? Is there something special that you’re hoping to find?
Chef: I am always looking for cool, timesaving devices – electronic or non-electric. But, there’s a fine line between being gimmicky and innovative. This Show is like my candy store – and people here want to put new products into my hands – I love trying new things out, so it’s great. You never know what you might find out there – who knows, you could find a new way to peel a pineapple!
When you eat out at restaurants yourself, are there chefs that you’re especially fond of? What is your favorite restaurant in Chicago (other than your own)?
Chef: Grant Achatz from Alinea – it is one of my favourite restaurants in the world. And I love The Wieners Circle – it’s an institution – I’ve been going there for 20 years! I also love Rick Bayless, Thomas Keller, Ken Oringer and Michelle Bernstein.