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Ming Tsai...

What is your perception of celebrity chef Ming Tsai. We stopped off at his bustling Blue Ginger in Wellesley, Mass. for early dinner the other night on our way down from Maine to home base in New York...
His take on East Meets West...his show.
His cuisine...(we enjoyed our dinner very much, we shared his signature double cut Pork Chop and New Zealand Rack of Lamb ((a whole rack)) with Asian influences...it was pricey, but quite good. Dessert, his Macadamia Nut Ice Cream with sesame crust was excellent! Actually all dishes lying on the counter for pick up looked super colorful, generous and exciting. Professional, well-attired waitstaff. The place had energy. We did not expect to see him because of his recent trip to China during the Olympics, but there he was expediting the line at the open kitchen and running from table to table to say hello to patrons...our neighboring table who were locals confided that he has always been very accessible.)
Was his show one of the first to innovate the whole Asian Fusion trend?
He's come quite a way from Dayton...

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  1. Frankly when he was on the Food Network in the earlier days, I thought he was a bit of a jackass. Once he moved over to PBS and had his own show I realized it was how the FN shows were produced and how all the male chefs were groomed.

    His PBS show is easy to watch (i.e., doesn't insult you) and he knows what he's doing...although there's been times he couldn't properly pronounce some Asian ingredients (not that I can) but you sort of expect that.

    He didn't start the Asian fusion trend but he might be part of the second wave of refinement.

    8 Replies
    1. re: ML8000

      Do you recall what Asian ingredients Ming mispronounced? Were they Chinese ingredients because I would be surprised if they were. I think he speaks Mandarin proficiently.

      1. re: KTinNYC

        He mispronounced lop cheong, which is more of a southern Chinese/Cantonese thing. No big deal really...except when you're on TV. It could have been he pronounced it with a Mandarin accent. Oh well, nothing like a little Mandarin v. Canto v. Taiwanese v. ABC speech action, eh? :)

        ETA: I've never eaten at his restaurant since it's in MA and I'm in CA.

        1. re: ML8000

          Come to think of it I've heard him pronounce lop cheong like a native English speaker. I just assumed he was dumbing it down for the gwei lo.

        2. re: KTinNYC

          I heard him say that "Pho" was pronounced "Foe" instead of "fuh", which I found surprising.

          1. re: jacquelyncoffey

            He's Chinese not Vietnamese. I give him a pass.

          2. re: KTinNYC

            I love Ming Tsai, and if you were wondering I remember him pronouncing gochujang as "kochijang". I'll let it pass though because he's not Korean (:

          3. re: ML8000

            He was certainly a pioneer of East-West cooking in New England, at any rate.

            1. re: ML8000

              I'M a bit of a jackass. Ming is a great chef and a good TV guy.

            2. Of all the celebrity chefs he produces the food I most want to eat, using his recipes I've eaten things I wouldn't otherwise have tried. In some ways he's kinda' like a Chinese Mario Batali. I'm always interested to learn about Asian food and he's very knowlageable about the ingredients, history and culture. Also, being from an Asian background myself I like hearing the stories about his family sometimes they trigger my own good memories.

              1. Ming Tsai has always been one of my all-time favorite chefs. He's so knowledgeable about food and he explains things so well. He's always going on about tasting the food -- really getting in there each step of the way and checking what you're doing. It's really too bad we don't see more of him on TV.

                8 Replies
                1. re: Fuser

                  Fuser, while we were there the talk was about a new series of 'East Meets West' episodes in the making...His website would have announcements about it.
                  By the way, according to his website he started cooking with his parents at their Chinese restaurant in Dayton, Ohio...went on to Yale to study engineering and then Cornell's noted hospitality school. He also worked in France and around the states before opening his own place in Wellesley. I guess he was smitten with the food realm. If you ever get there you will notice a definate Western turn to his Asian cuisine as well as the operation of the restaurant..house made bread served to every table, for example. It worked for us.
                  Blue Ginger is currently celebrating a 10th Anniversary...

                  1. re: gutreactions

                    I'm from Dayton and still don't know which restaurant his parents owned.

                    1. re: Fuser

                      I live in Dayton, and this town is in dire need of something decent that's Chinese.

                      1. re: gutreactions

                        >>> Fuser, while we were there the talk was about a new series of 'East Meets West' episodes in the making...His website would have announcements about it.

                        Um, maybe I'm the one who's confused but I would swear East Meets West was the name of his Food Network show. Where as Simply Ming is the name of the PBS show and is in it's 6th to 8th season ... no?

                        1. re: HarryK

                          Harry, I think you are right about the shows names. Simply Ming was just recently taken off of our PBS station, and I am so sad.

                            1. re: umami76

                              dani is in houston, and we hope and pray she is ok!

                    2. I never saw him on FN, but found him on PBS. I really enjoy his show. It was refreshingly focused more on food rather than on him or gimmicks. I am not well-acquainted with cooking Asian cuisines, so I found him quite fascinating. I enjoy when he has his family on as well.

                      1. I really enjoyed his show, I especially loved it when he had his mother on. I think he really paid due respect to his parents and his roots.
                        And geez, I never thought he was an a.., just knowledgeable.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          Wow, I can think of oodles more FN chefs that are bits of ___, but Ming Tsai?

                          I find him personable and easy to watch. Now, PBS's Yan Can Cook? Ick.

                          And sooooo many of the 'chefs' on FN? Double ick.

                        2. love, love, love ming tsai. in fact, he is among my "favoritests" these days ;-) (he and wolfie, and mario!)

                          he is so open and generous with guest chefs, and likes to learn from them. he honors his parents. he obviously loves to cook and create, and loves to teach and share that with viewers. his food looks delicious.

                          i posted about his recipe archive recently: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/526689

                          1. Nobody mentioned the most important thing about Ming -- he's cute!

                            Seriously, I've always loved him on TV. Seems knowledgeable, charming and gracious. I have to say, though, that DH and his sister went to Blue Ginger once and wasn't too thrilled about what they ate.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              I was thinking it...glad you said it.

                              I do like Ming. I really respect him. The fact that he's so involved in his restaurant speaks volumes to me. I didn't expect to see him when I stopped in for dinner one night. Very down to earth and the food there is great!

                            2. I've been to Blue Ginger twice and thought it was a wonderful rip-off in terms of what the restaurant charges and what we got. But if the demand is there, then kudos to him.

                              I met him once and thought he was friendly, smart, and extremely funny and quick-witted. He was with another chef, Marcus Samuelsson, and they had a great time teasing each other good-naturedly.

                              When his show used to be on regularly (can't figure out when or where it's showing now), he talked about his culinary experience in France...sounded like it had a great impact on him and can definitely see it in his cooking. Also, doesn't he have a child who has severe food allergies or something like that?

                              And Miss Needle, you'll be happy to know that the cameras do him no justice in terms of his appearance. He is way hotter in person!

                              19 Replies
                              1. re: gloriousfood

                                "He is way hotter in person!" How could that be possible? He is already so hot. I'm afraid that if I ever met him I might lose all capability to form a complete sentence! He is my favorite, but he is not on our PBS station anymore, so my Saturday mornings are very sad :-(

                                Take Martin Yan off, (okay, see this, okay, look here) and give me Ming back!

                                1. re: danhole

                                  dani, don't dis monsieur yan! he is good on trad food and technique. why not have both!?

                                  1. re: alkapal

                                    Sorry, he just drives me crazy with his "Okay's", etc. I still watch, but I'd rather watch Ming!

                                    1. re: danhole

                                      he is only on once a week here in dc, so i guess i hadn't really noticed. i'm too focused on trying to remember tips, ingredients, techniques.

                                      1. re: danhole

                                        Hi... 10+ years ago, Martin Yan had a PBS show that was so much more entertaining, in that he seemed more spry and, well, hyper-active. His jokes were still awful but he _genuinely_ semed to crack himself up with his own near-humor. And his knife/cleaver skills seemed unparallelled. Speaking of which, he had this insane habit of loudly COUNTING his knife/cleaver strokes, as if there was a definite number of cuts required for each specific vegetable; however, the counting always ended abrubtly and arbitrarily, at say 18 or 9 or 24. He seemed to be counting to _instruct_ the viewer, but the count always just ended at whatever number he arrived upon when the onion or whatever was whole no longer... And the man could cut/bone up a whole chicken in, like, 19 seconds. Amazing, and in that instance, without counting out loud :-).

                                        1. re: silence9

                                          Is the show from 10 years ago a different one from the one that is on now? He IS hyper active, lol! I have picked up a few tips, but he goes so darn fast that it is hard. The cutting up a chicken thing is amazing, but we need an instant replay to really digest it!

                                          1. re: danhole

                                            Hi danhole... The Martin Yan series that I mentioned was from the early 1990s, so probably nearer to 15 years ago. And Yan was definitely more hyperactive and all over the map back then. Quicker verbal delivery and quicker blade skills, but just as bonkers. Often employed two cleavers simultaneously,mincing hunks of protein into paste without the need for electric devices. Charming fellow, since he was so utterly un-self-conscious and thereby having a good time; that cameras were rolling seemed beside the point...

                                          2. re: silence9

                                            I've heard from people who've met him that all that was an act and he wasn't like that in person, even the heaviness of his accent. As the counting goes, I've found myself doing that, too, but never noticed until I saw him doing it. It was subconscious for me until then. His deboning a chicken was amazing. I remember his having a contest w/ another food tv person, maybe Emeril? He won, hands down.

                                            1. re: chowser

                                              I wrote a grad school paper on Martin Yan and TV chefs. My analysis was when in front of a camera he over-annunciates and pretty much is in the state of a quiet yell...and the accent seems much more pronounced. When he talks to people individually with an "inside" voice...you don't notice it. Despite this, he has an exceptional relationship with the camera and audience, hence his success...plus he knows what he's doing.

                                              1. re: ML8000

                                                His shtick embarrasses me. I think Phaedrus summed it up best in another thread:

                                                "Martin Yan makes me cringe too, but I understand where he comes from. This is kind of like the Amos and Andy schtick african americans have to resort to to get any attention to what they do. That was the way it was in the US and he is of the age where he had to do it."

                                                He is talented--no doubt about that--and and I like his style of cooking, which is much closer to the food I grew up with than, say, Kylie Kwong or Ming himself. But his antics make it very hard for me to watch the show.

                                                Here is the other thread that has a subthread on Yan: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/498467

                                                1. re: gloriousfood

                                                  Martin Yan use to make me cringe...but after writing the paper and breaking things down (it was for a TV class) I understood things better.

                                                  I wish it could be different but he is who he is...like a parent or grandparent who speaks broken English, you cut them slack and get over it or go hide in the closet because it's not going to change. If the embarassement comes from stereotypes from the larger society, well EF that. You have to ask why no one makes fun of Jacque Pepin's accent which is every bit as weird and odd, in a different way.

                                                  BTW, Martin Yan had a second series where he'd travel and explore food (non-studio/non-audience) and he wasn't anything like the Yan Can Cook personna.

                                          3. re: danhole

                                            Yan's on camera manner is simple to explain - public speaking jitters. Many people speed up their speech and thus speak differently when in front of an unfamiliar audience.
                                            I've always been too distracted by his amazing knife skills to notice any 'schtick'. Corny jokes, I was raised on them. Got over it long ago.

                                            1. re: DiveFan

                                              i love martin yan! he is not a fake. his chinatown series is excellent! http://www.yancancook.com/tvshows.htm

                                              1. re: alkapal

                                                In his early 1990s series on PBS, he'd end each episode with an enthusiastic and cheery farewell motto in his dialect. It always sounded, phonetically, like he was saying " Enjoy gin ! ". Love to know what he was actually saying. But " Enjoy gin ! " has become my own motto, whenever I want to freak out the squares with a non sequitur. As a square myself, I know it works :-)

                                                1. re: silence9

                                                  He was saying see you soon or see you again which sounds pretty much the same in Mandarin or Cantonese.

                                                  1. re: silence9

                                                    in fractured chinese, it's along the lines of "joi gien"...i was taught hard "g", but i've heard (with my bad ears and lack of intonation) "joi jin", too...

                                                    1. re: smalt

                                                      You're thinking about it in cantonese and he's saying it in mandarin.

                                      2. Speaking of Ming, did his PBS show go away? It's disappeared from my DVR

                                        5 Replies
                                        1. re: jgg13

                                          WGBH is showing reruns right now, so if you have it set for new episodes only you'll come up empty (and I think this week was pledge, so no reruns). I like the show, but never seem to end up making the recipes even though it's set up pretty conveniently.

                                          I ate at Blue Ginger once - I thought it was pretty good, but a bit pricey. I think this has a lot to do with location, and as a result I can't really recommend making the trip out there from Boston unless you're a big fan.

                                          1. re: nfo

                                            Ah, thanks. I never DVR'd it before but went to do so a couple of weeks ago and it wasn't listed on the list of shows, nor had I seen it when scrolling around looking for it. I looked again and GBH has the next ep at 9/06 so I've got it in there now.

                                            1. re: jgg13

                                              I always look forward to his shows; he has an astonishingly encyclopedic knowledge of cuisines from around the world.

                                              Simply Ming isn't in the current schedule rotation, but it has appeared regularly on PBS Create TV: http://www.createtv.com/CreateProgram...

                                              1. re: DiveFan

                                                Season six premieres the first week of October here in Boston. You should check your local listing after that and maybe it will be in the rotation.

                                            2. We live close to Blue Ginger and have been many times. Recently we went after many months of not going and it was really exceptional. Ming Tsai is the nicest person and yes, very cute. He is often at Blue Ginger and goes around chatting with everyone, signing his cookbooks etc. In addition, he promotes other local restaurants, his family is often at the restaurant, and he is very active in making sure that people with allergies who eat at his restaurant will have an allergen free dinner. He is just an all around nice guy, in addition to being a very talented chef. He recently expanded his restaurant to include a lounge that serves street food called "Ming's Bing's". I think much of his success is due to the fact that he has not spread himself too thin by opeing numerous restaurants but instead sticking to home base.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: emilief

                                                Exactly. He's to be commended for doing one restaurant really really well—unlike some restaurateurs many, many Bostonians can name.

                                                1. re: emilief

                                                  We also live close to Blue Ginger. And I've attended 2 tapings of his show (he offers seats for $ that are made out to chefs charity on his site). Love his PBS shows. Have all his cookbooks, altho some recipes (especially those of his guest chefs) are not great or ingredients not easy to find unless you shop in chinatown.

                                                2. I ate there one Sunday, and his wife (who's really nice) told me that Ming always spends Sundays with their sons instead of working. I really liked that he has a good work/life balance. The food was wonderful, and I didn't think it was particularly pricey, vis-a-vis comparable places and meals.

                                                  9 Replies
                                                  1. re: Claudette

                                                    Are you sure?? As far as I know they have always been closed on Sunday- so that Ming is at home. Maybe you ate there Saturday or have they changed their hours since the expansion???

                                                    1. re: emilief

                                                      This was a Sunday, but a couple of years ago. I live in CA, so I don't get to Boston very often. My Boston friends couldn't get us Friday nor Sat. reservations on my short notice. BTW: the streets were really squirrely going to/from Wellesley. Are all roads in Massachusettts purposely squirrely to confuse the enemy? Someone should tell them that the war is over...

                                                      1. re: Claudette

                                                        East coast cities grew around the natural geographic features, like rivers, hills, etc. Those cities also grew organically from when the first settlers got there so there was no grand layout of the city. As the westward migration started to happen, people started to lay the cities out in grids.

                                                        1. re: Phaedrus

                                                          I still like the cowpath legend, even though I know it's not true. :-)


                                                          1. re: LindaWhit

                                                            There was the story about a college who just moved to a new campus, the president told the gardeners to hold off and then he built the sidewalks on where people left ruts. Sounds apocryphal to me but it does satisfy a certain amount of rustic romanticism.

                                                          2. re: Phaedrus

                                                            Organic I can deal with. But some communities in Greater Boston (Newton and Wellesley in particular) seem to make it deliberately difficult to get around. I vividly recall an evening in the 1980s when I got thoroughly lost in that area because there were no street signs and my navigator's familiarity with the area was several decades stale.

                                                            The fact that he was the Secretary of Defense and I was a college punk made ignoring his directions seem like a bad idea. Ah, well, at least we had a chance to get acquainted during the long and scenic drive.

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                                              The lack of street signs is (or at least was) a big thing, when my family moved to MA in teh mid-80s it drove my parents batty. To make it worse, streets would change names in the weirdest of places.

                                                              1. re: jgg13

                                                                Go to the south, like Atlanta. The north-south streets would change names when they hit Ponce de Leon Boulevard. The same street north of Ponce is where white folks lived and streets south of Ponce is where the black folks lived. Not sure if this is why it happens in Bahston.

                                                                1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                  Ha, yes, I live a stones throw away from where Monroe becomes Blvd. and Briarcliff becomes Moreland....I personally liked Yan Can Cook - he was one of the staple shows, along with Julia, that I grew up with....and when I started watching Ming, I was very disappointed when I saw the wedding ring :-(

                                                    2. Just to clarify - I thought he was a bit of jackass when he was on his first show in FN..but they every young male chef was groomed the same way.

                                                      I think they directed all the TV chefs to be like Bobby Flay. I really think they groomed them all the same way or had some kind of formula they thought would work. If watched the early days you could tell they used the same studio set up with basic fixture changes...and all the chefs were demographically picked, young, handsome and a bit of a dick as I'm sure they (FN) thought that attracted women.

                                                      Once Ming moved to PBS it was like night and day. His own sensibilities came out and he seemed low key and wel...normal.

                                                      5 Replies
                                                      1. re: ML8000

                                                        flay has become more likable and less a@#hole-y over time, imo.

                                                        1. re: ML8000

                                                          I know what his name sounds like in Chinese (sounds like "famous dish" in Chinese). Does anyone know what his name actually means in Chinese?

                                                          1. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                            Ming is my favorite celebrity chef. His Blue Ginger cookbook gets a lot of use in my house and I have a season of Simply Ming dvd's.
                                                            I read recently in the book How I Learned to Cook that he has an engineering degree from Yale.
                                                            The only thing that bugs me a little is that he constantly prefaces comments to the audience with "o.k. guys," as in "o.k. guys, let's not forget to add the ...."

                                                            1. re: tofuburrito

                                                              I'll see you on the "guys" and raise you the "sav vignon" (sew vignon is closer to correct pronunciation) plus slurping the wine into a mouth full of food and swishing it, then talking before swallowing.

                                                              We ate at Blue Ginger once (he wasn't there) - it was good but not so much that I remember what I had. Definitely pricey for the portion size.
                                                              For the money, there are better meals to be had in the Boston area.

                                                            2. re: Ericandblueboy

                                                              According to Wikipedia his Chinese name is 蔡明昊 (Cài Mínghào). Means something like "clear skies"…

                                                          2. Here are some comments I made back earlier this year on a previous thread about my experiences at Blue Ginger and meeting Ming Tsai in person that evening. The archived thread also has some follow-up responses to others, as well as other insights from others:


                                                            A few years ago, I had dinner at Blue Ginger and Ming Tsai was in the house for the evening. This was just around the time he had made the switch from the FN to Public Television. He was the commander so to speak, as he should be and was all over the restaurant greeting people and overseeing the line expediting food quietly and calmly. Any patron that asked him to sign anything from menus to a purchased book, he did so without hesitation. He was even accommodating with fans wishing to have their pictures taken with him.

                                                            Near the end of my dinner, I asked my server if someone could provide me with the best and quickest direction to New Haven, so I could reach Frank Pepe's in time to get a take-out order of White Clam Pizza to bring back to New Jersey. To my surprise, the person who came to give me directions was none other than the man himself. We talked briefly and he gave me his suggestions for best pizza in New Haven which he frequented during his time at Yale....anyway, with hand written directions already in hand, I asked him why he made the switch from the FN to PTV. He said he was very grateful to the FN for giving him the opportunity and exposure for his career, but he felt PTV was a better fit for him and his personality. He wanted to be known more for his food than entertainment. I believe he made the correct decision and I was very impressed with what a genuine person he was to me that evening.

                                                            Myself, all my thoughts are positive for his show, recipes, techniques in cooking and the man himself. I feel his professional progression and personal refinement to be exemplary.

                                                            1. I was late to jump on the Ming bandwagon, but I've loved him ever since I saw him beat the living pants off of Bobby Flay in the battle duck competition on Iron Chef America. After that I've watched his show religiously, he's incredible.

                                                              7 Replies
                                                              1. re: temurr

                                                                I don't have cable/sat so I've only rarely seen Bobby Flay - is he all that? I sure didn't think so, but I get the impression that Bobby thinks that Bobby is...

                                                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                                                  he was an arrogant snot in his earlier shows. I think he has toned it down incredibly, especially since he has made his fortune, married a gorgeous woman and is secure in his profession. I also think doing that insipid Throwdown show has shown him what the others are doing to just make a living. I am hoping that the experience is what has humbled him into realizing how lucky he is.

                                                                  1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                    I agree; I disliked him until I watched him laugh, joke, and be very gracious during Throwdowns.

                                                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                      i agree that bobby flay was a jerk in the first shows i saw him in a few years ago. i really like him now, and i noticed the change on the "boy meets grill" show. i see he is coming to d.c. in november. i'll go

                                                                      edit: no, i won't be going at $220 per ticket!!!!

                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                        Thanks for the feedback on Mister Flay. I truly didn't care for him when he'd make random appearances on PBS cooking shows. No one could dispute he was talented - it was his hubris. It's good to know he's a good wine (mellows with a little age and love) now, and I won't automatically flip the channel if and when I see him again.

                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                          tickets for the dc event --from the official ticket site -- are only $50-75 for general admission and the bobby flay appearance. http://www.metrocooking.com/2008DC/ho...

                                                                      2. re: bulavinaka

                                                                        >>is he all that?

                                                                        No, he is absolutely, positively, definitely not.

                                                                        He's a legend in his own mind and pales in comparison to Ming Tsai.

                                                                    2. We hear that season six of 'Simply Ming', which apparently began shooting late this past May will include such guests as: Tom Colicchio, Michel Richard, Alfred Portale and golfer Annika Sorenstam...

                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                      1. re: gutreactions

                                                                        His new series has started to air in New York...caught one yesterday on PBS where he meets up with Bayless at Frontera Grill, Chicago. Those dishes they prepared with coconut looked delish...

                                                                        1. re: misenplace

                                                                          That WAS Ming Tsai? WHAT is with the hairdo?

                                                                          First Alton and now Ming?


                                                                          1. re: dolores

                                                                            just saw alton with long-ish hair, too. oh no! as bad as a comb-over. same with my man ming? say it ain't so.... (haven't seen the new show...)

                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                              i just saw simply ming (for the first time ever? or in a looong time? i cannot recall). anyhow, his hair was long and he looked puffy and pale. wassup?

                                                                      2. I love his show. He has a great personality for the camera without being kitschy. I have never been to Blue Ginger (been on my list for years and I am only 20 minutes away). I did meet him once - I waited on him where I used to work. He was nice, but reserved. His wife was really pretty. I was starstruck and figured he wanted to be left alone so I didn't acknowledge his celebrity.

                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Chefsquire

                                                                          "He was nice, but reserved"

                                                                          FWIW, a couple of folks I know who met him while working at one of Oringer's restaurants (KO being a good friend of his) were *not* impressed with him personally. So as to avoid the ire of the moderators, I'll refrain from repeating exactly what they said, but the gist was that he was really living the "rock star chef" stereotype.

                                                                          Personally, I don't care as long as he's entertaining on TV (and if I go to Blue Ginger, if his restaurant provides good food).

                                                                          1. re: jgg13

                                                                            It's hard to know what life is like even for a minor celebrity. I think it's a difficult position to be in at times and easy for others to make assumptions and pass judgement.
                                                                            Yesterday I followed the Blue Ginger cookbook recipe for duck achiote with pear chutney. I substituted chicken for the duck and it was one of the best things I've ever made.

                                                                        2. The food at Blue Ginger is fine, but certainly far from the best food I've ever had. Not stuff I would go out of the way for.