Ching-He Huang is a foodie entrepreneur and ambassador to Chinese cooking in
Britain. She has revolutionized Chinese cooking through her numerous TV shows, books, food products and, of course, inspiring recipes.
Born in Taiwan and raised in South Africa and London, Ching graduated from Queen Mary and Westfield University in London with a first class honours degree in Economics before attending Bocconi Business School. As a self-taught cook, Ching launched her own food company, Fuge Ltd, fresh from graduating from university in 1999.
Her cooking style is influenced by her family and the different places she has called home, she says. “I was raised on freshly-cooked home meals and my major food influences come from the traditional cooking styles of my farming community grandparents who lived out in the countryside of southern Taiwan. With their paddy fields and bamboo farms, they also cultivated an orangery, sweet potato patch and mango trees.”
When Ching and her family emigrated to South Africa, she says her lunch boxes of stir-fried rice and vegetables with dried meat powder and cucumber pickle caused quite a stir. It was the family’s move to London when Ching was 11, though, that proved to be hugely influential to her not yet imagined career.
“My parents were so involved in running their business and trying to setup a life for us here in the UK, so I was in charge of cooking the family meals," Ching says. "Mum taught me the basic philosophy behind Chinese cuisine the emphasis on balancing yin and yang through 'hot' and 'cold' ingredients but I was left to improvise by myself. Soon I learned everything from making bamboo-leaf parcels of glutinous rice to simple, nutritious stir-fried rice dishes and noodle soups.”
These formative cooking experiences inspired Ching to launch her own food company straight out of university: “I began producing fresh healthy food for a number of blue-chip companies in the city."
Then she launched TZU, a healthy soft drinks range, which is now stocked in popular outlets all over UK and licensed across the world. “I wanted to create a healthy soft drinks range with a Chinese heritage," explains Ching. “It’s made from brewed sorghum vinegar fused with sparkling water and natural fruit juice, and truly refreshing served iced cold.”
Ching’s dynamic approach to modern Chinese food led to a television presence and her first cookery series on the UK Food Channel in 2005, Ching’s
Kitchen. “This was the most challenging part of my career so far - filming my first ever series, trying to keep my factory running and pulling together recipes for my book; all at the same time," she says. "I was doing 18-hour days!”
In 2006, Ching launched her first cookbook, China Modern, followed in 2008 by Chinese Food Made Easy, which was accompanied by a BBC2 primetime series. The book spent six weeks at number one in the book charts and made her the one of the top five best-selling cookery authors after Jamie, Nigella, Gordon and Delia. Ching’s third book Ching’s Chinese Food in Minutes was published last year by Harper Collins and the accompanying show airs this month.
“My most rewarding career moment was reading my first ever review for my first cookbook," says Ching. “Sainsbury's magazine said my Salty Crispy Chicken recipe alone was worth the cover price and I was so happy.”
So what advice can she offer other prospective entrepreneurs? “Don’t be afraid to follow your dreams, keep your vision clear and focused and be thankful for opportunities when they come your way.”