Black-belt Yoga Mistress (and Gung Ho! fan) Jodi Smith getting her Qigong on at the Great Wall ~ episode 10 of her series “30 Minute Yoga for Hotel Rooms”
Check out the fabulously fit (and presumably flexible) Jodi after the break. Read more
Canadian-Vietnamese chef-about-town Jun Trinh is known for well, many things around Beijing. Cooking chops include Pho Pho and Banh Mi Now, his group Mandinga Beijing is busy promoting the Brazillian martial art capoeira, and his new TV cooking/travel show “Who will lend me a kitchen” has been picked up for a second season! Jun designed 3 new exclusive Asian-inspired Summer salads for Gung Ho and very kindly found time to answer a few of our questions.
Rich: Ok, boring question. How did you become a chef?
Jun: I started working in my aunt’s restaurant in St Louis, Missouri when I was 14 years old. It was a situation where I had to work to help out my family and I totally hated it.
Rich: What? Why are you still a chef then?
Jun: Hah! I hated it because I was 14 and it was something I was forced to do but I grew to love it! It’s like a puzzle to me, really creative. Putting interesting flavors and random things together in my mind, sourcing great fresh ingredients and finally pulling it off. When is all finally comes together and it’s this whole new thing, or even if it sucks it’s great and I always learn something.
Rich: What kind of chef are you? Wait, that sounds bad. What kind of food do you specialize in?
Jun: Primarily South-East Asian cuisine.
Rich: What are your top 3 favorite things to eat?
Jun: Just three? Oh god, uh, Vietnamese Pho, Shanghai dumplings, laksas and curries, seafood too.
Rich: What do you think about the cooking culture in China right now?
Jun: It is definitely changing. For a long time people were too busy, working hard, making money but there’s been a growing interest in cooking at home, especially among Chinese men. A lot of Chinese people are I don’t know, looking up recipes and stuff, cooking them up and sharing their dishes and tips and advice and stuff on Weibo. And not just Chinese or Asian for either. Interest in Western food is also growing among Chinese. Five years ago you wouldn’t see anyone out eating western food. But now they’re into it, and they understand it in a way they people didn’t before. They’re specializing; rather than going “hey let’s do western food tonight” they’re saying let’s do Italian, let’s do sushi, let’s do tapas. They’re getting specific.
Rich: What’s the biggest difference between Asian and Western dishes?
Jun: Chinese chefs don’t use measurements as much. They depend on the experience, the feeling, the rhythm of it…
Rich: …The grandmother yelling at them to add more sesame oil from the doorway…
Jun: Ha! Yeah, the whole shared experience thing. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of western chefs cook that way too, but they are a lot more controlled, like, the exact amount of spices, the exact cooking time, getting it all just right.
Rich: If someone wants to start cooking what would be your advice?
Jun: Specialize. It’s better to be able to cook one excellent dish instead of a bunch of random average dishes.
Rich: Ha! That’s what I do. I can only really cook one thing, but every time I do it I’ll add chicken, or the grocer won’t have spinach so I’ll throw in bok choi or something.
Jun: Yeah, you really start to learn how things work together but you’re working from this place that already kinda works. Also, finding a friend who is a chef always helps.
Rich: Well that’s you then. Hey, I hear you are into capoeira, what’s up with that?
Jun: Yeah! I’ve been here with some great people putting together our group, Mandinga Beijing, if you’ve ever played Tekken, our mestre (Master) is Mestre Marcelo, the man behind Eddy Gordo , Tiger and Christie Monteiro. It’s a Brazilian martial art developed from Afro-Brazilian slaves. It’s a mixture of martial arts, music, sport, and dance. We teach classes in Beijing with groups in Shanghai and Taiwan.
Rich: Is it stronger than Kung Fu?
Jun: Ha, I wouldn’t say stronger. It’s really different. It’s tricky; it was developed by slaves to teach them how to fight but at the same time to hide that fact from their masters. There are moves that are dance-like, some acrobatics in there, jumps and turns.
Rich: Hah! Like monkey style!
Jun: Exactly, or like drunken style.
Rich: Tell us about your TV show. How the hell did that happen?
Jun: I have a friend, a fellow foodie/chef from Black Sesame Kitchen; we always talked about doing a traveling/cooking show. We ended up meeting some people from the Travel Channel, just pitching random ideas (one of which hopefully next year we will do). They asked about how I travel and I said I usually go through food.
Rich “Go through food?” What does that mean?
Jun: Like, I’ll go to a place, like Bangkok or Guilin or wherever and I’ll check out the fresh food markets, check out the great local restaurants, meet the chefs, hang out with them, sleep on their floors. Learn about the local flavors and techniques. So from that they came up with the idea for “Shui Jie Wo Chu Fang? (Who will lend me a kitchen?)”.
Rich: Must be a crazy experience! Any funny stories?
Jun: Ah, well, once while chasing chickens for a TV show, they thought it’d be funny if I fell. I hate doing fake set up shots for the camera, so of course I was being difficult about it. The camera man tries to coax me into falling by acting the part out, and in turn, he falls and smashes the viewfinder on the camera. It was priceless, but not the type of shot he wanted it to be.
Rich: No way!
Jun: And it was an expensive camera!
Rich: Shame he didn’t catch that on camera. So, I hear you’re quite famous now. Ever get recognized on the street?
Jun: I do actually. It’s totally weird. People will call out, “hey, are you Jun?” or come up to me or whatever, but I don’t think they’ve thought it through so they’re stuck standing there and I’m standing there and no-one’s saying anything so I kinda just walk away. It’s really awkward. I guess my cell phone number got out too, so I get a lot of girls calling and texting me to come over.
Rich: To cook, right?