It’s official: Chef Kathy Fang has officially emerged from her renowned culinary family to make a name for herself. The daughter of famed House of Nanking chef and owner, Peter Fang, was recently crowned the Chopped Champion in the Chinese New Year-themed episode (first aired January 26, 2016).
The Food Network series features fierce competition between chefs who are challenged to create three masterful courses from items in the mystery basket. For the Chinese New Year episode, four competitors spontaneously prepared dishes that incorporated ingredients such as Peking duck, chicken feet, turnip cakes, giant fortune cookies, good-luck candy, and ginger beer, with Chef Fang creating the most impressive three-course meal that ultimately won the vote of each judge.
Growing up in the kitchen of House of Nanking, Kathy Fang discovered her own passion for cooking. She began blending her family’s Cantonese heritage and cooking style with her own inspiration that grew from her perspective as a native San Franciscan, her global travels, and her formal training at the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu Culinary School. She eventually opened Fang Restaurant in the S.O.M.A. district in 2009 with her father.
Fresh off her win, Kathy dishes on competition, her restaurant, Fang, her food blog, MyFangalicious.com, and her upcoming plans for a new Youtube Channel. Plus – she shares one of her favorite recipes for Chinese New Year.
What was it like growing up in San Francisco as the daughter of a famed chef/owner – did you always think that you would follow in his footsteps?
When I was young, I never thought I would follow in his footsteps. As much as I loved cooking and being around the excitement of the kitchen, I saw how hard both my parents had to work. It was physically and mentally exhausting for them and to me it felt like they never had a day off. When I was growing up, I wanted something easier, more along the lines of a 9 to 5 job. Little did I know that as I grew older and graduated college, that I wouldn’t want to do anything else but follow my dad’s footsteps and open my own restaurant. I dove right into the food industry once I realized this is where my passion is and never looked back since then.
What made you want to compete in Chopped?
Aside from opening and running Fang, I have aspirations to push myself as far as I can dream of going. I’ve been told that my personality at the restaurant would translate well on TV and that I should try going on the Food Network. I thought, sure I’m always up for a challenge. Let’s see if we can make this happen. And well Chopped, it’s one of my favorite shows to watch. I felt honored to be even considered to go on and be around great chefs and Food network personalities.
What was the most surprising thing that you discovered during competition?
I’m usually known to be rather reserved when it comes to my emotions. But somehow, the show became more than just a competition to me as the day progressed. I don’t know if it’s because it was a Chinese New Year theme and the thought of my family kept coming up throughout the day as I cooked, but I suddenly got emotional during the judging. I cried when they asked me about how important it was not only to win the competition, but even more importantly, to get approval from my father, who is my biggest critic and supporter. Crying was definitely not something I expected from this competition haha.
Congrats on winning! Now that you are champion, what will you do with your winning fame and notoriety?
I hope to use it to help me gain more traction and followers to my restaurant, food blog, and soon to my YouTube cooking channel (Kathy Fang). My life is all about food and how I can share it with people. Whether it’s through dishes they eat at Fang, my own food photography on my blog or Instagram (myfangalicious), or through learning how to make dishes from my blog (myfangalicious.com) and cooking tutorials.
What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects as co-owner/chef at FANG?
The most challenging aspect is managing for me. Being a chef is the easier part. ☺ Being Chef is the part I enjoy the most because it allows me to do what I love, which is cook for people and create recipes and experiment. But because I also own the restaurant, my job doesn’t end behind the line. I step out of the kitchen and it’s another part of the business I have to deal with and work on. Managing all the different moving parts to a business can be arduous, time consuming and stressful. Trusting the people around you is also challenging at times when you feel so attached to the business both front of the house and back of the house. You almost want to be in two place at once☺
Fangalicious is so educational and intriguing. What is your favorite place that you traveled, and the must-have dish from that place?
Oh god, picking a favorite is too hard for me. I have a handful, and I mean a large handful, of places I’ve traveled to that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. Every place has something beautiful and unique to it. But if I had to select one just to throw out there as a recommendation for people to visit, it would be Bali. Bali is everything you can imagine and want from a vacation/trip. It’s educational in terms of the rich history it has, as well as the interesting religious transformations it’s gone through over the years. And when you’ve visited half of the historical sites and crave natural beauty, it’s got some amazing landscapes that you can just wander and get lost in. And of course being a chef, food is an integral part of travel. They have great local food which I would recommend eating while traveling through places like Ubud and Java, but also fantastic international cuisine with a slight indo-twist in Seminyak. Seminyak has some uber chic and cool lounges, beach clubs, bars and restaurants. You really can have it all in Bali for vacation. The must have dish in Bali or well Indonesia is Babi Guling. It’s a roasted suckling baby pig. It’s super traditional and famous. It’s roasted until the skin is crisp and the meat is so juicy and flavorful. They top it over rice and It’s just heavenly paired with a fresh coconut.
In honor of Chinese New Year, do you have a special recipe (with instructions and a photo) that you can share with our readers?
Dumplings are a very traditional dish to be had during Chinese New Year. The recipe I would love to share comes from the city that my parents were born. In Shanghai, everyone eats wontons and their wontons are unique to them and different from the rest of the China. So we like making them for New Years. Plus, it’s a little easier and less time consuming to make than the traditional Jao Zi (Dumplings).
Shanghai Wontons with Soy Chili Dipping Sauce
2 tablespoon sesame oil
2 cups finely minced cabbage
2 cups ground pork
pinch of white pepper
2 tablespoon soy sauce
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 teaspoon minced ginger
1 pack of dumpling skin
Soy Chili Dipping Sauce:
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon agave
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon sambal
2 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon chili oil
- Mix all the ingredients for the filling in a bowl
- Wrap your wontons
- Place 1 teaspoon filling in the center of the dumpling skin wrapper
- Fold in half and seal the edges with water
- Lay the folded wonton with the flat side facing you and the half round side facing out
- Dab water on one side of the half folded wonton and bring them together towards you until they touch. Place the wet side below the other side and press down to seal. It should look like a folded tortellini.
- Repeat and make as many as you need
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil
- Add all your wrapped wontons in and boil until the wontons all float to the top. Turn down to a medium boil
- Now whisk your sauce
- Strain the wontons and plate in a large bowl
- Pour your sauce over the wontons