I don't swear!

Deeply affected by her fond childhood memories of cooking with her grandmother on their family farm in Southern Taiwan, the 35-year-old turned her passion into a food enterprise.

Cooking was the only thing she knew, the Taiwan-born, Britain-raised Huang told The New Paper in an e-mail.

"Fresh out of college, I was broke, and since the only thing I know how to do well is cooking, I started my own catering company Fuge and produced food for retailers, restaurants and supermarkets."

That was more than a decade ago, and now Huang is a celebrated food entrepreneur, award-winning cookbook author and TV chef.

Her TV career began in 2005 with cooking show Ching's Kitchen, and she has had five shows under her apron since.

Her latest, Restaurant Redemption - now showing on Asian Food Channel (StarHub Ch 435) on Wednesdays at 10pm - sees her travelling around the US to help struggling Asian restaurants revitalise their menus by giving them new inspiration and direction to turn their businesses around.

How is Restaurant Redemption different from other "rescue" shows such as Gordon Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares or Robert Irvine's Restaurant Impossible?

This is unique to other reality TV restaurant shows because of the characters. Most of them are Asians with varied histories and stories. There is blood, sweat and tears on this show, and it's all real. And I don't swear!

What's the most difficult aspect of helping the restaurants?

The hardest challenge was the transformation of the restaurant as we had only a matter of days to do the renovation, so it was physically demanding on myself and my team.

At times I felt like we were a troop of knights in shining armour riding in to the rescue of these restaurateurs with all our equipment - paint, drills, saws and the rest of it.

How did you find your culinary voice?

My grandmother inspired me and taught me to cook during my early years. My mother also taught me the basic philosophy behind Chinese cuisine, which emphasised balancing yin and yang through "hot" and "cold" ingredients, but I was left to improvise by myself.

Everybody thinks making Chinese cuisine is easy. Do you think so?

It's a creative process and you don't strike a golden recipe every time. The most common mistake is being lazy. I think it is true of any restaurant.

When the restaurateur or chef becomes tired and lazy, the food becomes tired and lazy.

My advice is to enjoy and love what you do because it will show in the food. Be creative, try new recipes, have fun and specialise.

A restaurant doesn't have to have more than 100 items. An eatery can survive on a well-executed handful of menu items because it allows for consistent quality control.

What's your favourite food?

My wonton noodle soup is always a winner - it's easy and fun to make, and can be made into an array of dishes, such as Sichuan wontons in chilli oil.

It can also be turned into a dim sum dish or be part of a simple soup broth. They can be made ahead and stored in the freezer, and then cooked from frozen for a quick meal. Wontons are family-friendly too; children love them.

Do you have a must-have Chinese New Year meal?

My mother usually cooks and I will help her. When she is around, I hardly get a chance at the wok!

She is a great cook and our New Year family menu always has nian gao (sweet sticky cake); dumplings; longevity noodles; mixed grains and sticky fried rice; steamed sea bass or red mandarin fish, gingko, bean curd layers and pea shoot stir-fry; fa cai (dried moss); and roast chicken.

These days mum and dad have gone vegetarian as they are trying to be healthy, so our dining table now has less meat but is more tofu and vegetable-focused.


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