Johnny Chu Dishes on What Americans Don't Get About Chinese Food and Why He Doesn't Have a Favorite American Dish
Nikki Buchanan Johnny Chu presiding over his new kitchen at SoChu House
See also: Johnny Chu, Tastemaker 2012
Is your cooking more influenced by one Asian cuisine another, or is it a true melting pot?: It's a melting pot. I don't like to limit myself, so I am always trying new cuisines, not just Asian. To grow as a chef, you have to keep on learning and experience new concepts, flavors, and cuisines on a consistent basis. I love traveling, so that's a bonus in my profession!
Describe one great thing about each of these cuisines:
Chinese: Robust and complex flavors, beautiful color and presentation
Japanese: Simple and refined; art
Vietnamese: Cuisine that makes you think of home; Asian comfort food
Thai: Sugar and spice -- always a good combo; distinct, unique flavors
Korean: Intense yet simple; great use of common base ingredients such as meat, dairy, egg, and starch for an everyday meal.
Which chef or chefs have influenced you the most and how?: Nobody.
What do Americans fail to understand about Chinese cooking?:
Chinese cuisine can be healthy and light. We're not all about sweet and sour pork. There so many different regions of Chinese cuisine, like Szechuan, Hong Kong and Trieu Chau. This is also true of other Asian cuisines, which have regions specializing in distinctively different dishes. Asian cuisines are 7,000 years old. There's much more variety and complexity than you'll ever see here.
Where do you get your inspiration?: Visiting restaurants, reading cookbooks, visiting other countries. The more you experience the better. I love to visit other countries and eat at street food vendors, and mom-and-pop shops where they only specialize in a specific item.
Favorite American dish and why: No one particular dish, but I like Binkley's. He's a great chef. I like food that wows me. Don't get me wrong. I eat burgers, but some people don't cook things with passion. I eat everything. I just like good food -- doesn't matter if it's a hole in the wall. I'd rather have good food from a street vendor than bad food at a fancy place.