Ming Tsai opened the doors of Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Massachusetts, more than 10 years ago. Since then, he's earned two James Beard Foundation Awards, hosted three Emmy-nominated cooking shows, authored four cookbooks and competed on Season 3 of Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef". Before that young Tsai could be found in the kitchen with his mom and dad at their family-owned restaurant, Mandarin Kitchen, in Dayton, Ohio.
On the eve of a state dinner honoring Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit to the White House Nicole Dow spoke with Chef Tsai about regional Chinese cooking, the role of authenticity and how an American eater can up his or her chances of scoring the good stuff.
Previously, Anthony Bourdain discussed his return to Beirut after having had to leave in the middle of filming to escape the war between Hezbollah and Israel. Today, he talks family dinner and the food that makes him get misty.
Nicole Dow: Who taught you to love food?
Anthony Bourdain: You either do or you don't. It's like appreciating music. I can't imagine anyone who is unmoved by beautiful music. Something you learn to love early, it resonates, not something I thought about. Whether or not it's important, it always was. I was aware of food from a pretty early age.
ND: Did you grow up eating dinner with your family, and do you continue that with your family now?
Bourdain: I did grow up in a very traditional – like "Mad Men,", that era of the family meal. We would go out to dinner in New York sometimes on weekends. To their credit, my parents went out of their way to change it up – Japanese, French, Chinese. These days I travel so much, my family travels with me sometimes. The family meal, when we are all in NY together, yes we eat together. It's all a rare joy for me. I like cooking for my family, and ordering in pizza is fun too.
My daughter, Ariane, she is very good in restaurants. She is three years old. Never cries, never makes a scene. She can be in a French brasserie, eat oysters, sit and enjoy herself
ND: What is the last meal you had that made you cry?
Bourdain: Every time I have that first bowl of pho' in Vietnam, I tear up a little.
The host of No Reservations takes care of unfinished business in Lebanon's capital and talks organic food and the best kibbeh he's ever had.
Nicole Dow: During your first visit to Beirut in 2006, the war between Hezbollah and Israel started. It’s now been four years. How did you find Beirut on this second trip?
Anthony Bourdain: Fantastic, we did the show that we hoped to do in 2006 - a happy show highlighting the aspects of Beirut that enchanted us the minute we arrived. I was dismayed to see that Hezbollah is more powerful than they were in 2006. If anything, they seem to be the beneficiaries of the conflict. Public opinion-wise, politically, far more influential now than when I was there in 2006.
The Beirut I hoped to find is still there, largely back to the way it was, to a large degree. The food was fantastic. We were treated well everywhere.