When gathering a list of the most famous Chinese chefs in the world we didn’t only want to focus on the names that are familiar to western audiences but more importantly introduce the world to several talented chefs that you have not heard of, yet.
Chinese food culture produces some of the most popular food on the planet. It is well known for its spicy flavors and unique ingredients. Chinese food is a staple in the American palate and can be found in almost every city in the United States. This exotic cuisine is brought alive by the chefs that prepare their dishes every day.
Let’s look at the top 10 famous Chinese chefs:
Chef Martin Yan
Martin Yan was born in Guangzhou, China, and began cooking at the age of 12. His father was in the restaurant business and Yan picked up the culinary arts through the family. He went to college in Hong Kong to earn a degree in culinary arts.
After graduating he moved to Canada to further his studies. He began a television show named Yan Can Cook and has hosted thousands of episodes since it began. Yan’s other TV appearances include Martin Yan’s Hong Kong, Martin Yan’s Chinatowns and Martin Yan – Quick & Easy. He was also the guest judge on Iron Chef America, Iron Chef Vietnam, Top Chef, and Hell’s Kitchen.
Yan has also published a wide variety of cookbooks including Chinese Cooking For Dummies, Martin Yan’s Chinatown Cooking: 200 Traditional Recipes from 11 Chinatowns Around the World, Martin Yan’s Feast : The Best of Yan Can Cook, Martin Yan’s Asian Favorites: From Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand and Martin Yan’s Invitation to Chinese Cooking.
Yan has won several awards during his career including two James Beard Awards and a Daytime Emmy Award. The Chef’s official site.
Chef Ken Hom
Ken Hom was born in Tucson Arizona and then moved to Chicago Illinois as a small child. He began cooking at a young age while working in a restaurant his uncle owned.
Hom ended up going to college at the University of California, Berkeley, and to help him earn some extra money while in school he began teaching cooking lessons. It became so widespread that he was eventually invited to the California Culinary Academy to teach.
Hom auditioned and won a role as a host of his own cooking show for the BBC called Ken Hom’s Chinese Cookery. It became extremely popular and Hom wrote a cookbook to accompany the show which sold millions of copies worldwide. He later co-hosted the show Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure.
Hom has won numerous awards including the Peabody Award for a documentary series Noodle Road. Hom’s cookbooks include Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure: 100 recipes from our journey, Ken Hom’s Top 100 Stir Fry Recipes (BBC Books’ Quick & Easy Cookery), My Kitchen Table: 100 Easy Chinese Suppers and Simple Chinese Cookery.
Hom has been seen on the charity front as well, working with Action Against Hunger which helps families in over 40 countries feed their children. Hom’s charity work became a focal point for him as his career blossomed and he saw how much he was able to help out the less fortunate.
Chef Susanna Foo
Susanna Foo did not begin in the kitchen as a small child like many famous chefs. In fact, neither of her parents taught her how to cook or were even in the restaurant business. Foo went to school to earn a degree in history and went on to work in a library.
Foo and her husband later moved to the United States and helped his family with their restaurant in Philadelphia. Susanna helped cook in the kitchen and was later found by a food critic who loved her cooking and had her attend Culinary school as well as train in French cuisine.
She eventually opened her own self-titled restaurant and mixed her Chinese and French cooking into her dishes. Her restaurant became extremely popular and she earned many accolades from her work.
Foo won a James Beard Foundation Award twice for her cooking as well as cookbook. Foo opened a few other restaurants along the way, one with her son as he wanted to get into the business.
Best Susanna Foo Books
Foo’s cookbook, Susanna Foo Chinese Cuisine: The Fabulous Flavors and Innovative Recipes of North America’s Finest Chinese Cook, is still popular to this day and she published another one named Susanna Foo Fresh Inspiration — New Approaches to Chinese Cuisine.
Chef Cecilia Chiang
Cecilia Chiang grew up in Beijing in a luxurious mansion with chefs who prepared her and her nine siblings fancy meals. She was never allowed in the kitchen and did not learn how to cook until later on in life.
Chiang eventually left and moved in with a relative. She married and settled down until she was called out to America to help her sister whose husband had died. While she was in San Francisco she met friends from back home in San Francisco’s Chinatown and helped them open a restaurant.
The friends eventually backed out of the deal, leaving Chiang with a restaurant and no experience running a business. She decided to stay and try her hand at the restaurant business, leaving her husband in China and having her kids fly out to the United States.
Her restaurant was not popular at first, but when it began to gain momentum due to articles about the food in a local paper her success soon took off. She moved the restaurant to a much larger venue and became extremely popular.
She retired in 1991 and received a James Beard Foundation Award for lifetime achievement in 2013, cementing her status as one of the most famous Chinese chefs.
Chef Alvin Leung
Alvin Leung is an eccentric, self-taught chef who loves to push the boundaries of Chinese cooking. Many of his dishes are mixtures of cultures and he likes to call them “X-Treme Chinese” due to the largely inventive dishes that he serves.
Leung’s restaurant Bo Innovation has received two Michelin stars, his second restaurant, Bo London, has one Michelin star. Leung is known for serving dishes that combine British and Chinese cultures, many times cooking English food with Chinese ingredients.
Leung has since opened several other restaurants, all with the intent to awe those that come to sample his food. He has been on the cooking show Around the World in 80 Plates and is a regular judge on MasterChef Canada.
Leung has also published his own cookbook entitled My Hong Kong which showcases many of his eccentric recipes and has become a huge success. His work with Chinese food and being able to experiment with different flavors and techniques has gained him a place on our list.
Chef Danny Bowien
Danny Bowien began cooking as a normal part of life to help his family but soon became enamored with it as he found how it made people come together.
He began working in many different restaurants in San Francisco and became so good during a stint at an Italian restaurant that he won first place in the 2008 Pesto World Championships.
Bowien almost decided to give up cooking altogether until he found Chinese food and flavors to be more exotic and began to cook with these spicier, more eclectic foods. He eventually opened The Mission Chinese Food which became a huge success and was named as a top restaurant in several magazines.
By 2012 Bowien was on multiple top chefs lists in the country and was even a James Beard Foundation award finalist. The following year he won the award for his work in his restaurants.
Bowien’s dishes are known for their mix of both elegant and down to earth styles, making them appealing to so many around the country.
Chef Kylie Kwong
Kylie Kwong began cooking with her mother when she was a child, learning the ways of the kitchen and how to cook Chinese dishes. She was later an apprentice at two different restaurants, honing her skills as a chef.
Kwong found her style in cooking her Chinese dishes with traditional ingredients and preparation. Kwong opened up Billy Kwong, her first restaurant with the notion that they only wanted to use organic and biodynamic food.
She also made her way to the television screen with two different cooking shows which she hosts and was also a guest chef on MasterChef Australia during the fourth series and later on as a judge and mentor in the sixth and eighth series.
Best Kylie Kwong Books
Kwong also published several cookbooks including Lantern Cookery Classics – Kylie Kwong, Kylie Kwong : My China, Kylie Kwong: Recipes and Stories and Heart and Soul which have made her an all-around famous Chinese chef.
Chef Peter Chang
Peter Chang attended culinary school in China before starting his career working in luxury hotels as the head chef. He won cooking competitions and began to attract a lot of attention for his delicious Szechwan cuisine, so much so that he was encouraged to move to the United States to try out his craft.
After moving to America Chang worked in small restaurants before opening Peter Chang’s China Grill in Charlottesville. It was an instant hit and got Chang on the map. He opened several more restaurants and had one named as one of the Best New Restaurants in America by Bon Appetit magazine.
Chang continued to open new restaurants, mostly in the Virginia area. Most of these restaurants earned a cult following before going mainstream and have become staples within the communities they serve.
Chang was a finalist for a James Beard Foundation Award and has even cooked at the James Beard House. Chang has been on several television shows as well including Bizarre Foods America.
His traditional dishes are made to cater towards those in America and he found his culinary style early on, making him one of our top most famous Chinese chefs.
Chef Ching He Huang
Ching He Huang was born in Tainan, Republic of China, but spent a lot of her young childhood in South Africa before moving to London.
Although earning a degree in economics, Huang had a passion for cooking that eventually led her into her culinary career. She began writing about food and Chinese dishes and eventually began her own television shows.
Huang started out with Ching’s Kitchen and was then a guest on Saturday Kitchen, Food and Drink, Sunday Brunch and The Much Box. Other television shows included Chinese Food in Minutes and Easy Chinese San Francisco by Ching He Huang, both of which were based on her cookbooks. Several more TV shows and specials followed, making Huang a household name.
Best Ching He Huang Books
Huang also published several cookbooks, which were the inspiration for her TV shows. These cookbooks included Chinese Food Made Easy: 100 simple, healthy recipes from easy-to-find ingredients, Wok On: Deliciously balanced Asian meals in 30 minutes or less, Ching’s Fast Food: 110 Quick and Healthy Chinese Favourites, Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure: 100 recipes from our journey, Asian Green: Everyday plant-based recipes inspired by the East and Eat Clean: Wok Yourself to Health, all of which were big hits.
Huang is known for her cookbooks and cooking shows and has become an icon in the culinary word due to them.
Chef Chan Yan-tak
Chan Yan-tak was born in Kowloon, Hong Kong and began working in kitchens at a young age after the death of his father in order to help provide for the family. He was not interested in becoming a chef, only taking the jobs to provide income.
The more that he worked in the restaurants the better Yan-tak got and eventually getting on at the Regent Hotel Hong Kong as a sous chef and later as the executive chef.
Yan-tak is best known for becoming the first Chinese chef to earn three Michelin stars while working as the executive chef for Lung King Heen. Yan-tak has had an illustrious career as an executive chef at several different restaurants and is still working to this day.
Who are your favorite Chinese chefs?
The famous Chinese chefs that have made it to this list embody the culture and culinary aptitude that makes Chinese cuisine so popular. They have taken their craft to the next level and continue to bring us amazing dishes. From traditional to X-Treme to new fusion styles that combine multiple cultures, these Chinese chefs are as different as they are the same.