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MING TSAI: PROTOTYPE OF THE NEW AA MALE?

epending on your perspective, Ming Tsai is either a role model for a new generation of Asian American men or the nightmare of many Asian parents.
     On the role model side, he's America's most famous Asian chef, with two popular Food Network series (East Meets West, Ming's Quest) and a recipe book under his belt (Blue Ginger). And at the age of 36, he and his wife have built up an acclaimed, highly profitable fusion restaurant (Blue Ginger) in the Boston suburb of Wellesley. Ming Tsai
     On the parental nightmare side, Tsai threw away a Yale mechanical engineering degree to work in a Paris restaurant just because he belatedly discovered that he'd rather cook than compute stresses. Adding insult to injury (some Asian parents might say), he married a white woman from Dayton Ohio.
     The ages-old tension between following the road to traditional success and the yearning to hack one's own trail may have been sown in Tsai's childhood. Ming-Hao C Tsai was born March 29, 1964 in Newport Beach, California and grew up in Dayton, Ohio where his father was a high-level scientist at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. His mother ran the family's Mandarin Kitchen restaurant and taught cooking classes.
     As a teen Ming helped out in the restaurant while aspiring to Yale and following in his father's footsteps. Not until well into his Yale career did Ming discover that his real passion was cooking. He toughed out the Yale B.A. but lost no time after graduation. He went to Paris to take a Cordon Bleu course, then spent two years working his way around that city's kitchens. Upon his return, he enrolled in Cornell for a masters in hotel management, then spent nine years apprenticing under top chefs.
     During that period Tsai developed a unique style that fuses Asian and western flavors and ingredients with a rare mix of discipline and dash. He caught the eye of cooking show producers. Audiences liked his babyface and smooth-talking style. In 1998 the Food Network tapped him for the East Meets West series. Tsai and wife Polly lost no time opening the Blue Ginger that March to satisfy the appetites they expected to be whetted when the show premiered in September. Polly contributed the provocative name and served as the hostess while Ming built up a kitchen operation that would free him for filming shows and allowing two uninterrupted family days each week. One is Sunday when the Blue Ginger is always closed.
     Ming Tsai is busier than ever now, what with a new son and jetting around the world filming outdoor culinary adventures for Ming's Quest, his second show. Glowing reviews and admiring profiles have made him a media darling. People magazine voted him one of the world's most beautiful people.
     Ming Tsai isn't without detractors. Some AA complain that he's catering to stereotypical images of Asian males as smiling purveyors of exotic flavors. Others say he's corrupting venerable Asian cuisines into Asian-lite. Still others grouse that he's enjoying his own cooking so much that he's turning into a chubby Buddha.
     So what's Ming Tsai's impact on the AA male image? On the career ambitions of young AA males?

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WHAT YOU SAY

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(Updated Tuesday, Apr 1, 2008, 04:53:33 PM)

All of the Asian males should be glad Ming Tsai is so adored and celebrated as he has made the Asian males even more appealing.
ana
hello@there.com    Monday, September 30, 2002 at 15:43:19 (PDT)
Bottom line: all good parents, not just Asian ones, want to see to it that their kids succeed enough to make a comfortable living. I'm willing to wager that Ming's parents are satisfied with how he turned out since he's successful by most standards. The only way I can conceive anyone from being disappointed in his career choice is if he had the potential be some sort of Nobel Prize-winning, world-saving mechanical engineer.

As for those griping about him marrying a whife (yeah, I just coined that term--don't steal it). That's cool. More AFs for the rest of AMs, so I ain't complaining. And hey, it also makes it more acceptable for whites and other races to marry in with AMs. AMs--we're not just for AFs anymore.

Ming, you ai-ight with me, dawg.

But no more with the Martin Yan bashing. Comparisons with the original gangsta are hardly relevant. The Yan Can Man obviously representin' old school, and Ming got his own fusion thang goin' on.

I like how Yan's sense of humor straddles the line between unbearably-cheesy and surrealistically addictive. Some may argue that he's playing up to stereotypes, but it's funny to see all those silly gwai lo eating up all his lame jokes and ridiculous mugging.

Plus he has the same last name as I do, even though I'm not related.
Pro Fighter Q
   Sunday, July 14, 2002 at 19:57:57 (PDT)

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