AAPI chefs have been cooking up a storm since we’ve been in this country, and some have gained recognition since the 1980s and 1990s. With the advent of more channels and media outlets, and more opportunities to showcase chefs and their talents, we’re seeing more AAPI faces get the recognition they deserve. Here are five AAPI chefs to know:
If there are Asian American chefs that you have to know, you have to respect history, and that means that Ming Tsai has to be on this list. Recognized by industry organizations like James Beard and Zagat, he’s not just a chef and restauranteur, but also a chef whose television show Simply Ming introduced Asian cooking to the masses. While some may have issues with his fusion of “East Meets West” (also the name of his Food Network program from 1988 to 2003), you can’t deny that Tsai has helped bring Asian food — and Asian culture and an Asian American face — to millions of people. In addition, he’s a cookbook author, Emmy award winner, and his restaurant Blue Dragon was inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame.
If Ming Tsai was a trailblazer in the culinary world, helping to set the stage for others to come after him, then David Chang is one of those recipients — his uncompromising commentary on food setting him apart from others in the industry. The Korean American restauranteur is also an author and podcaster, and he’s appeared in HBO’s Treme, Top Chef: All Stars, The Mind of a Chef, and most famously, his Netflix show, Ugly Delicious. But Chang doesn’t forget his roots: his restaurant Ko has maintained two Michelin Stars since 2009.
Great chefs don’t all need Michelin stars and television shows. They can also serve their country — like Criseta Comeford, the White House Executive Chef since 2005. She’s the first woman, and the first person of Asian descent, to hold the position (there have only been seven Executive White House Chefs). Recruited by then sitting Executive Chef Walter Scheib III, Comeford, who is Filipina American, is one of only 26 members of the Le Club des Chefs des Chefs. While she doesn’t have her own TV show — yet — she has appeared on Iron Chef America.
Reality TV is a slice of Americana. And if there’s one thing we as Americans can relate to, it’s the underdog — and that was Kristen Kish on the reality tv show Top Chef. After being eliminated, she was given the chance to stay alive by winning consecutive victories in what was called the “Last Chance Kitchen,” earning her way to the top spot. Kish is currently on the TruTV cooking show Fast Foodies, and, in 2018, opened her new restaurant Arlo Grey in Austin, Texas. She also co-authored Kristen Kish Cooking: Recipes and Techniques: A Cookbook.
Working with other pioneers in the industry, Choi is one of those credited with elevating the food truck industry to ubiquitous heights through street food culture and humble culinary genius. A restauranteur, author, and co-host of Netflix’s The Chef Show, Choi is also open about his struggles with addiction, talking openly and honestly about the effects drinking and drugs had on his life. Choi is also known for his passion for “feeding people,” that is, not just the affluent who can afford Michelin-rated meals. To date, Choi is the co-owner, co-founder, and chef of four restaurants including: Kogi BBQ, Chego!, Best Friend at Park MGM Las Vegas, and LocoL.