In recent years, Asian-American chefs have been taking over the food scene, with critics and foodies alike celebrating their multi-ethnic mastery of bold flavors and daring cooking techniques. From mouthwatering Korean BBQ tacos to spamusubi, their dishes take creative risks and help them make history in the food world and beyond. Here are eleven awesome Asian-American chefs that are changing the way we look at food (or are just really bad-ass):
Originally from South Korea and adopted by an Oklahoman family, Danny Bowien is the chef and co-founder of Mission Chinese Food, based in New York and San Francisco. Starting his culinary career at various places on both coasts, Danny Bowien came to greater national attention when he worked at Farina and won the Pesto World Championship (who knew that was a thing?!).
He describes his cooking as “Americanized Oriental food,” with dishes like supersmoky kung pao pastrami. Now, he focuses his time on Mission Chinese Food where only one dish costs more than $16, and 75 cents from each food item sold goes to a local food bank. Amazing chef and amazing person? I think yes.
David Chang has been credited with increasing the popularity of modern Asian cuisine through his cooking and the Anthony Bourdain-produced PBS series The Mind of a Chef. As the owner of the Momofuku restaurant group, his culinary empire now includes five restaurants, several dessert bars, and a cocktail bar. Just as impressive, Chang is loaded with coveted nominations and awards, including two Michelin Stars and multiple James Beard awards.
Roy Choi is kind of a BAMF. His unique cooking style fuses Mexican and Korean flavors for an insane foodgasm. You might just call him a food truck pioneer, serving upscale street food (including Korean BBQ tacos) to the people of downtown Los Angeles with his food truck Kogi BBQ, and gaining praise from food critics and the public along the way.
In addition to running Kogi BBQ, Choi also runs several Los Angeles area restaurants including Chego, Sunny Spot, and A-Frame. Roy Choi has also had his fair share of time in Hollywood; the Jon Favreau movie Chef (2014) was loosely based on him, and he even worked as a consultant and co-producer for the film.
Cristeta “Cris” Comerford is the current White House Executive Chef. Not only is she the first of Asian descent, but she is also the first minority and the first woman to be appointed as the White House Executive Chef.
Originally from the Philippines, Comerford served as the sous-chef during the Clinton administration and was later appointed as Executive Chef in 2005 by First Lady Laura Bush. With that said, yes, it is completely okay to fan-girl over her (I know I do).
If you’re like me and you love cooking shows like MasterChef, then you might just remember Christine Ha, the first blind contestant and the winner of the third season of MasterChef in 2012. Since winning the show, Ha has made a guest appearance on the inaugural season of MasterChef Vietnam and travels around the world giving inspirational keynote addresses and cooking demonstrations.
In 2014, Ha received the Helen Keller Personal Achievement Award from the American Foundation for the Blind, a reward previously given to legends like Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder. Ha is living proof that physical disabilities should not stand in the way of reaching your dreams. She also has a rocking blog called The Blind Cook.
A writer, chef, entrepreneur, and media personality, you know and love him as the inspiration behind the ABC prime time family comedy, Fresh Off the Boat.
The chef and co-owner of BAOHAUS, a prolific Taiwanese bun restaurant in New York City, Eddie Huang has received critical acclaim from The New York Times, CNN, NBC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, and various other media outlets.
Huang is currently the host of MTV’s Snack-Off. His memoir, Fresh Off the Boat, which hit the NY Times Bestseller list, became the basis of the the first American sitcom to feature an Asian family in two decades. All in all, you can say that Eddie Huang is pretty awesome. Check out his culinary adventures around the world on his MUNCHIES show, Huang’s World on VICE.
A first generation Chinese-American, Anita Lo is the celebrated chef and owner of Annisa, one of only two woman-owned restaurants in New York City with a Michelin Star.
Lo’s cooking combines contemporary American cuisine with multicultural flavors, particularly Southeast Asian and Mediterranean. Lo was also the first challenger to win a battle on Iron Chef America, beating Chef Mario Batali 54-45. If all that isn’t impressive, then I don’t know what is.
Niki Nakayama is one of the world’s only female chefs that specializes in kaiseki, a traditional Japanese culinary practice that emphasizes the balance and seasonality of a series of dishes. You can watch her intricate plating of kaiseki dishes here. She has also been recently featured in the Netflix original Chef’s Table.
Her current project, n/naka in Los Angeles, is a dining experience that applies “the artistic and technical notions of kaiseki to create an ever-evolving seasonal narrative within each meal.” You know, just casually taking down the patriarchy, one delicious bite at a time.
The chef and owner of Qui restaurant and East Side King, a group of Asian food trucks in Austin, TX, Qui was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 2014 Best New Chefs and Top 10 Empire Builders of 2012. Born in the Philippines and trained in classic French and Japanese cuisine, Qui’s modernist approach toward food is influenced by a variety of flavors from around the world.
You might recognize Dale Talde from season 4 and the “All-Star” season of Top Chef. After graduating from the CIA in 1998, Dale Talde worked on the opening teams of two renowned Chicago restaurants, but it was only until after consulting at Le Anne, a Vietnamese bistro in Chicago’s western suburbs, that Talde reaffirmed his love of Southeast Asian cuisine rooted in his Filipino heritage.
In 2005, Talde worked under Chef Masaharu Morimoto (which is pretty deserving of some praise and awe, in my opinion) and restauranteur Stephen Starr at the esteemed New York City Japanese restaurant Morimoto, after which he was named the Director of Asian Concepts for STARR Restaurants.
Ming Tsai is a Chinese-American celebrity chef who has been cooking for television audiences since the 90s, starting with the popular Food Network show East Meets West with Ming Tsai on Food Network, for which he won an Emmy in 1998. In the same year, Tsai opened Blue Ginger, a critically acclaimed East-West cuisine bistro in Wellesley, MA. Currently, he is the executive producer and host of the PBS cooking show Simply Ming.