Chef Nic a delicious TV hit

In the world of culinary TV shows, Hong Kong singer-actor Nicholas Tse has emerged a maverick chef.

The dishy 35-year-old is possibly the biggest star right now helming his own China-produced cooking programme Chef Nic, which is currently airing its second season on China's Zhejiang Satellite TV.

He is also leading a surge of other international celebrities who are churning out culinary shows and cookbooks.

Billed as part-reality, part-travelogue and part-infotainment, Chef Nic follows Tse as he traverses the globe with guest celebrities in search of delicious, culturally unique food.

Along the way, he also flaunts his deft skills in the kitchen. Some of the dishes he impressed viewers with in the first season include mango seared cod and pork stew in red wine.

Chef Nic is a winner primarily because it brings out a very human, relatable side to Tse.

Prior to the show, he had a bad boy image: Handsome and stoic - thanks to his cool cat roles in The Bullet Vanishes (2012) and As The Light Goes Out (2014) - but distant and emotionally detached.

While Tse already wears many hats - he is also a host and owner of a production house - the success of Chef Nic has also led to other sidelines for him. He has two cookie brands, Taste of Nic and Chef Nic Moon Cookies (believed to be sold for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival), and a bakery, Taste of Fung By Beyond Dessert in Central, Hong Kong.

He is also selling kitchenware such as chef's knives, aprons and oven mitts on a Chinese online site.

Chef Nic emerged as such a hit in its first season last year - its ratings averaged third highest in China, trumping most of its competitors in the same timeslot - that it was swiftly renewed for a follow-up, with a bigger budget and more manpower deployed.

While Tse previously hosted the show alone, he now has a support team of "cooks", comprising fellow Hong Kong actor William Chan, Chinese pop duo Yu Quan and actress Ma Su.

Celebrities who have made appearances on the show include Chinese A-list star Vicki Zhao, who took Tse on a tour around her vineyard in Bordeaux, France, and Hong Kong actor Nick Cheung, whom he went crab-catching with in Victoria, Australia.

UNEXPECTED

Fans here can stream episodes of the second season, which premiered on Aug 1, at v.qq.com/detail/2/21615.html. In an interview with website Sina.com, Tse - who has two sons with ex-wife, Hong Kong actress Cecilia Cheung, and is now dating ex-girlfriend, Chinese singer Faye Wong - said he had planned to do a "short cooking series, 15 minutes per episode".

"I never expected the end product to be so grand," said Tse.

"Not only was each episode (of Chef Nic) 60 minutes, it was filmed and edited like a movie... There is a cinematic quality to it."

Throughout the show, the toughest challenge, he said, was the constant jet-setting.

"The production crew and myself visited so many countries in eight to 10 months, we must have flown more than 400,000km," he said.

"But it was all worth it, as (the show) changed my life."

In a separate interview with online video portal Youku, Tse said that cooking has brought him "unexpected joys in life".

"Through cooking, I've become closer to my mum," he said. "Also, I feel that when youngsters look at me cook, it will be a positive influence on them."

Cooking also keeps him grounded.

"I think it's important to keep oneself balanced and the best place is the kitchen," he told People.cn. "Whenever I cook for my family, friends, my staff, I want to hear their criticism. It keeps me anchored to reality."

Celebrity chefs cooking up a storm

BEN YEO

In 2013, the 36-year-old local actor-host helmed his own programme, Bentolicious, on Toggle. He taught viewers how to create interesting, tasty lunchboxes.

In the same year, the father of two released a cookbook, Cooking For Kids, with recipes for babies and toddlers.

The culinary arts graduate from the Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre also owns two pasta stalls in food courts and bistro Tenderfresh Classic.

BRIDGET MOYNAHAN

The 44-year-old US actress and mum of one is certainly capitalising on the success of her police drama series Blue Bloods. She has filmed more than 100 dinner scenes over five seasons, and now the fare that has been featured on the show will be available for recreation at home.

Moynahan will be releasing her The Blue Bloods Cookbook: 120 Recipes That Will Bring Your Family To The Table in November. It is co-authored by the wife of Blue Bloods executive producer Leonard Goldberg.

Hearty recipes include herb-roasted chicken and pasta primavera.

DEREK CHEN

Taiwanese actor-host Derek Chen, 33, a graduate of National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, helmed his own culinary travel TV programme, Cooking My Way, till it ended its run in March.

Chen has three cookbooks to his name.

His latest, Derek Chen's 10-Minute Meals, provides readers with tips on how to prepare dishes in under 10 minutes.

FREDDIE PRINZE JR

The 39-year-old Hollywood actor, best known for his role in 1997 teen slasher flick I Know What You Did Last Summer, is releasing his first cookbook, Back To The Kitchen, next year.

Die-hard fans of the father of two - he has a pair of daughters aged two and five with actress-wife Sarah Michelle Gellar - are already aware of his cooking prowess.

Ever since Prinze Jr joined Twitter a year ago, he has been routinely posting pictures of fancy meals that he whips up for his family, such as fried lobster and Brussels sprouts.

Prinze told E! News in April that he was once enrolled in a culinary school and would probably have become a chef if he had failed to make it as an actor.

Nicholas Tse aside, there is a burgeoning crop of celebs who are showing the world that they can command the kitchen just as well as they can the screen or stage.

KELIS

We suspected US R&B singer Kelis - best known for her 2003 hit song Milkshake - was a secret culinary whiz when she called her sixth studio album, Food, and its individual tracks Breakfast, Jerk Ribs and Friday Fish Fry, among other mouth-watering titles. Food was released last year.

As it turns out, the 36-year-old mum of one is a Le Cordon Bleu graduate. She hosts her own Cooking Channel show, Saucy And Sweet, and has a line of sauces Bounty & Full.

Come Sept 28, Kelis' first cookbook, My Life On A Plate: Recipes From Around The World, will be out in stores. Expect a slew of recipes reflecting her Puerto Rican heritage, such as pernil (Puerto Rican pork shoulder), arroz con gandules, and shrimp alcapurias.


This article was first published on September 2, 2015.
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