Join Grace Young, the big wok who is fighting to save America’s Chinatowns

(CNN) – If you haven’t had a wok or had an idea to buy one, you’re probably after talking to Grace Young.

But like the thousands who attended his wok shows or read his winning books over the past two years, you won’t regret it.

This year, the acclaimed food writer, novelist and ‘wok therapist’ were named recipients of two of the world’s most prestigious food culture awards – the 8th annual Julia Child Award and the 2022 James Beard Humanitarian of the Year Award.

Not only do the exhibits recognize Young’s work promoting Chinese culinary culture, but his innovations support mother-and-pop businesses in Chinatowns in the United States during disease-communities devastated by Covid-19 lockouts and anti-Asian hate crimes.

He is a lawyer from Chinatown

On March 15, 2020, while New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio was contemplating a lockout around the city in response to an emergency, Young was in Chinatown with videographer Dan Ahn writing the community’s problems and uncertainty about the future of their lives.

“It was very inspiring for me to be in the middle of living history to see Chinatown on one of its darkest days.

While the disease has plagued businesses in the city, small homes in New York City’s Chinatown are the best because people aren’t safe to go there – ”although no case Covid testified. Was from Chinatown at the time, “Young added. .

“People were afraid to come to Chinatown because of prejudice and xenophobia,” he said.

Grace Young, award -winning food writer and wok therapist, is the recipient of the 2022 Julia Child Award.

Grace Young, award -winning food writer and wok therapist, is the recipient of the 2022 Julia Child Award.

Jutharat Pinyodoonyachet

The situation is set to escalate with a sharp rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in the coming months. By 2020, the number of attacks on Asians in the country had risen to 279 from 161. Between March 31, 2021 and March 31, 2022, 110 of 577 hate crimes were recorded in the United States. Asians, according to the NYPD Hate Crimes Dashboard.

As reports of such offenses increased, employers began closing their doors for the first time, allowing their employees to return home before dark, which is a different story. continues today.

“Chinatown, pre-pandemic, survived until 10 or 11 at night. Now, it hurts me to see so many shops and markets replacing theirs. exit at 5. On Sunday nights, it can be very quiet., ”Young said.

Most businesses in Chinatown are mom-and-pop stores-often without a website. Young began to use his power to support them.

In 2021, he joined New York non-profit Welcome to Chinatown to introduce the Grace Young Support Chinatown Fund. It received $ 40,000.

He donates money to four heritage businesses in Manhattan’s Chinatown – Hop Lee, Hop Kee, Wo Hop Upstairs and Wo Hop Downstairs. In turn, businesses provide food for those who need food security.

“Each restaurant had only about $ 10,000 – and they had to use the money to cook food to feed the needy,” Young said.

She plans to donate the $ 50,000 she received as part of the Julia Child Award to non -profit organizations that support Chinatowns around the country.

Knowledge of the Chinese Cook

The youngest and her youngest mentor, Julia Child.

The youngest and her youngest mentor, Julia Child.

Michael Wiertz

Julia Child’s gift is more than Young’s Chinatown’s efforts. Personal, too.

“I don’t think I’d go into a food business without Julia Child’s influence. She’s the one who made me passionate and passionate about cooking,” said Young, who loves to cook. and Child in his youth. Young.

Growing up in San Francisco, Young said he enjoyed cooking at home Cantonese.

In college, she tried to match the dishes she had grown with using Chinese cookbooks but had little success. So, in her 30s, she asked her parents to teach her how to cook Cantonese classics – from pickled tomatoes with beef to cashew chicken.

The knowledge led to his first cookbook, “The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen,” published in 1999.

“When I was writing my first cookbook, I wanted to do for cooking in Chinese what Julia Child did for cooking in French,” Young said. That is, to take the “bugaboo from cooking in France” – or Chinese cooking, in Young’s case -” shows not only good but follows strict rules, “as Child explains.

Young’s book was well received. A James Beard Foundation International Cookbook Award Finalist, nominated for the IACP Julia Child First Cookbook Award and winner of the IACP Best International Cookbook Award.

The tender chicken almost forgot the rice

Young said he wanted to do what Julia Child did for French cooking.

Young said he wanted to do what Julia Child did for French cooking.

Delwyn Young

It would have been better to do the book than Young thought.

After two years of recording things in her family kitchen, she thinks they covered all the dishes she wanted.

Yes, until his father said “but we haven’t taught you ‘waat gai taut.'”

One of his favorite dishes was the last dish Young learned from his parents to enter into “Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen.”

Waat gai taut is a simple dish made with steamed chicken, shiitake noodles and rice in a pot. The process makes the chicken very tender, so “waat” or “slippery” in Cantonese, and combine the rice with the delicious chicken flavors. The menu is called “Tender Chicken on Rice” in his book.

“‘ Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen ’was published in 1999 and about 10 years later I received a phone call that my mother was ill,” Young said.

She flew to San Francisco to visit her mother in the hospital.

“She couldn’t talk, I stayed with her. They brought hospital food. It was like meat and mashed potatoes. She took her trash and cut the food. , But he didn’t eat, ”Young recalls.

So the worried girl returned to her family’s home and made tender chicken on rice in a small pot.

“I brought the pot with me to the hospital. It was hot when I went into the hospital room. When I went inside, he could smell “I woke up and he looked up.” I opened the pot and he ate everything, “said Young.

As his mother grew older, Young continued to cook for her. With dementia, Young’s mother always knew how to eat. Cooking became a way for her.

“When I wrote‘ The Wisdom of the Chinese Kitchen, ’I thought I was writing it for my generation and future generations so that we don’t forget about ancient foods,” she says. “But I never dreamed I could comfort my parents in their difficult time.

“Now my two parents are gone. It was one of the greatest gifts of my life that I took the time to cook with my parents. Now when I do waat gai taut, it’s better the better.

It’s a wok treat

Over the years, Young has noticed that many Chinese Americans – like him in his youth – do not know how to use the wok.

In an effort to preserve the art, he dedicated his two books to woks and stir-frys: “The Breath of a Wok” and “Stir-frying to the Sky’s Edge.”

“In America, a lot of people call a wok a cooking pan,” he says. “They don’t think you can use the wok for steaming, boiling, poaching, pan-frying, stir-frying, deep-frying, smoking and braising. Making popcorn.

“It’s great to make popcorn in the wok to enhance the patina of the wok.”

For those unfamiliar with the concept, patina is a brownish film on the surface of metals formed after prolonged use. It was like a loose cover for a wok.

Amid the undisclosed number of woks in her collection – Young doesn’t tell us how many of her things because she doesn’t want her husband to know – she says there are 14- inch flat-bottomed carbon-steel wok, which he loved. It was called a “wok wok,” which she took with her when she went to work.

“Wok man recorded flying miles.

Because of Young’s popularity, his books have overcome the difficulty of explaining many ethereal Chinese food concepts – for example, he coined the term “wok hei”, or ‘ breath of a wok ’ – generations of food writers and lovers. thanks no.
Today, she considers herself a wok therapist, answering questions from new wok owners via email while participating in Wok Wednesdays, an online cooking group she works with. to establish.

Defending a piece of American culinary culture

After three cookbooks, Young says he doesn’t consider himself a chef.

But he was more interested in preserving and desecrating Chinese culture, especially through food.

Writing about wok recipes or in support of Chinatowns, he said he would not only work for the Chinese community in the US.

Thus, Chinese food and Chinatown culture are an important part of American culture and history.

“I think people have forgotten that Chinese food has a long history in America since the 1840s, and it’s an important part of the American food landscape,” Young said.

“Chinatown to me is a sacred piece of American knowledge and it is a reflection of American history. It will take you to another world. This is a small era of antiquity.”

Top photo: Honorable food writer, novelist and ‘wok therapist’ Grace Young. Found: Dan Ahn.

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