Established celebrity and fashion photographer, Yu Tsai, is known for his beautiful fashion campaigns and magazine covers, as well as his candid personality. Adding to his appearances on America’s Next Top Model as creative consultant, Asia’s Next Top Model (ASNTM) as creative director and American Beauty Star as a judge, the budding chef embarks on a journey of food explorations and self-discovery in a new TV series titled Street to Kitchen.
Filmed in his homeland, Taiwan, the series follows Tsai on a road trip as he encounters inspiring people making a difference in the street food scene. It also sees Tsai prepare delicious dishes for his weekly guests at the end of each episode.
We find out how the show came to being, Tsai’s love for cooking and his advice on breaking into the fashion industry.
1. What inspired you to do a cooking show like Street To Kitchen?
Street to Kitchen is not just a cooking show; I wanted to honor the street food heroes and their dedication towards keeping the street food culture and tradition alive.
2. What was the most memorable thing about filming in your homeland, Taiwan?
I got to taste authentic Taiwanese food again. I left Taiwan when I was 11, so my memories of Taiwan were filled with grade school memories. They were not the best, because I was a bad student!
One thing I noticed is the warmth and the kindness of Taiwanese people.
3. What impressed upon you the most while shooting Street To Kitchen?
When I created Street to Kitchen Asia, I didn’t have a true grasp of how much work it will take to bring it to life. So what impressed me the most is the hard work and dedication put in by the entire crew, from production to post production. They truly deserve lots of credit.
4. What is the biggest influence fashion photography has on your cooking?
Patience. As a fashion photographer, you have to wait for the hair, makeup and styling to be ready. Then you have to wait to achieve the perfect lighting. With cooking, I feel the same. I learn not to rush the process so it can really allow the flavors to build.
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5. What sort of dishes you will be preparing on the show?
Many of the dishes I make on the show have a special twist to them. They are inspired by the street food I got to taste and the inspiring people I got to meet. Many of them are dishes my family has taught me to prepare. I am not a trained chef—I make food that I want to eat and food I want to share.
6. What do you love about food? Is there a dish that has moved you?
Well, I love to eat and I love feeding people. Food brings people together.
‘Oyster Mu Shu’ brings back a lot of memories—I would beg my mom to get it for me for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
7. Do you like night markets? What is your favorite Taiwanese street food?
It’s impossible to pick a favorite from the night market! It’s like asking a parent to pick their favorite kid. But ok, if I had to choose it would be Stinky Tofu. The stinkier the better!
8. What is your favorite Taiwanese dish and have your friends tried it before?
Wow this is tough… my friends always request that I make ‘Three Cup Chicken’ for them. It is a simple dish, but packed with amazing flavors.
9. What other types of cuisines are you good at?
I make lots of pasta. These days, I have been making a lot of homemade pizza for my godson Michael.
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10. You’ve worked with plenty of Hollywood superstars and models. Is there someone you’d like to share your homemade Taiwanese dishes with?
Well, a lot of them have already invited me to their home to cook for them. But I don’t think I can ever turn down an invitation from Angelina Jolie!
11. Have you thought about publishing a cookbook or opening a restaurant?
Publishing a book, yes. I would love to share my recipes with people.
My father owned a Chinese restaurant. I saw how much work it took so I would have to really think about it. Besides, I do still love my photography career.
12. What would you say to anyone who wants to enter the fashion industry?
I think it’s so important to have a strong point of view when it comes to your personal style and aesthetic. What makes you different is what people will remember you by.
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Catch ‘Street to Kitchen’ on Star World channel and FOX+ at 10pm every Thursday or here.