Asian American

Chop Sticks and Kimchi: How Asian Chefs Changed the Way America Eats

In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Blue Pacific Flavors is spotlighting four famous Asian chefs who have changed the way Americans eat.  Their culinary contributions have made a lasting impact on the food and restaurant industry, significantly adding to the melting pot that is American Flavor. Luckily, these chefs’ creations are accessible to everyone, be it a sashimi tower served with a flourish at a fancy restaurant, or a Korean fusion hot dog passed proudly through the window of a trendy food truck.  Today we are profiling four of our favorite Asian-American chefs: Masaharu Morimoto, Ming Tsai, Roy Choi, and Mei Lin.  Read on to learn more about these amazing culinary masters and their flavor-filled creations!

Masaharu Morimoto

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Masaharu Morimoto is a Japanese chef best known for his starring role in the Japanese and American cooking shows Iron Chef.  In 2012 he was inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame which honors chefs and institutions who have made major contributions to cuisine and food. 

Morimoto was born in Hiroshima, Japan. He wanted to become a professional baseball player in but – thankfully, for the food industry – that deam was cut short when he suffered a shoulder injury.  He then turned his attention to studying the art of sushi.  Morimoto opened his first restaurant at 24, and then five years later he moved to the United States to share his fresh take on Japanese cuisine with an American audience.

Morimoto has created a culinary mix between Japanese cuisine and American Cuisine in which he integrates Western and Japanese ingredients, a cooing style often characterized as Japanese Fusion. Morimoto is best known for crafting flawlessly fresh sushi and for his artistic approach to food plating.  Through his innovative dishes and elevated presentations, Chef Morimoto popularized Asian style fine dining in America. He incorporated authentic Asian ingredients into his cuisine, many of which were new to the American palate.  One of Morimoto’s signature dishes is the Buri bop which is a Korean mixed rice dish that normally contains vegetables and meat.  For a Japanese-inspired twist, he substitutes yellowtail tuna for the beef, creating a perfect fusion of Asian favors.  Want to try a delicious meal from Morimoto? Find a Morimoto restaurant near you!

Ming Tsai

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Ming Tsai is an American chef of Chinese heritage best known for hosting Simply Ming, Ming’s Quest, East Meets West, Cooking Under Fire, Iron Chef America, and The Next Iron Chef.  He was born in Newport Beach, CA.  Tsai’s mother owned a Chinese Restaurant and his father was an engineer – an upbringing that no doubt inspired his love of food and his analytical approach to cooking and business.  After studying mechanical engineering, Tsai decided to go to culinary school to pursue his passion for cooking.  In 1999 he won the Daytime Emmy for outstanding Service Show Host and eleven years later he was named “Chef of the Year” by Esquire Magazine.  Continuing with his impressive string of achievements, in Tsai’s Blue Ginger Restaurant was inducted into the Culinary Hall of Fame in 2012. 

Ming Cooking 3

Ming Tsai is famous for his east-west fusion cuisine which pulls from his Chinese origins and traditional American and pub cuisine.  Some of his most popular dishes include Foie Gras Shumai, Jasmine Tea Souffle, and PekingDucken. When his wife Polly was diagnosed with cancer, Tsai developed a special dish to help her eat well on the strict vegan diet she was on. These “Mings Bings” are handheld pockets of vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free deliciousness wrapped in brown rice paper – a perfect meal or convenient snack for today’s busy and health conscious consumers.  What began as a heart-felt approach to nutrition evolved into an innovative, ready-to-eat food that people all over America now enjoy. Want to try Mings Bings?

Roy Choi

Roy Choi

Roy Choi is a Korean American chef who is hailed as one of the godfathers of Southern California’s Food Truck Movement.  He was born in Seoul, South Korea and moved to Los Angeles when he was two.  Choi’s family owned many businesses including a Korean Restaurant in Anaheim.  At the age of 24 he dropped out of Western State University law school and enrolled in culinary school, citing the Essence of Emeril Show as an inspiration.  Choi has since gone on to lead the way in Korean-Mexican fusion with his fleet of Kogi Korean BBQ food trucks, an enterprise he founded with business partners Mark Manguera and Caroline-Shin Manguera. In 2011 Time listed him as one of their 100 most influential people in the world.  The 2014 Jon Favreau movie Chef was inspired by Choi’s life. 

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Growing up in Southern California, Choi was no stranger to authentic Mexican flavor.   He is most famous for fusing Korean and Mexican dishes together into something that captures the vibrancy and traditions of both cultures.  Some of Choi’s most famous dishes are the Kogi Dog, Kogi Taco, and Asian Fried and Glazed Baby Back Ribs. Choi is renowned for crafting “food that isn’t fancy” but tastes like it is. His presence and popularity on social media has helped turn food trucks from rolling cafeterias to trend-setting traveling kitchens…”diamonds in the rough” that customers will drive across town (and in some cases, the country) to find.

Hungry for more? Click here to read more about Chef Roy Choi.

Mei Lin

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Mei Lin was born in China and moved to Dearborn, Michigan when she was only three months old.  Her family operated a Chinese restaurant which gave Lin her first experiences in the culinary field. Growing up in Dearborn, Lin was exposed to both American and Middle Eastern cultures, and was able to try a variety of different foods such as hummus and chicken shawarma from an early age.  Not knowing what to do for a career, Lin decided to follow the path of becoming a professional chef – a chef so professional, it turns out, that she won the twelfth season of Top Chef!

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After winning Top Chef, Lin became Oprah Winfrey’s personal Chef and contributed recipes for Winfrey’s cookbook “Food, Health & Happiness.”  She received the 2020 James Beard Foundation Award Semifinalist, Best Chef: California. A year later, Lin opened Daybird in Los Angeles which offers Asian American fusion specialties such as Szechuan Fried Chicken and Fries.

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During the Judges Table segment on Top Chef, judge Tom Colicchio tried Lin’s Strawberry lime curd with toasted yogurt, milk crumble & yogurt-lime ice and said,

“The best dessert I have ever had on Top Chef, period, and one of the best desserts I’ve had in my life.”

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Lin has also made her mark in gourmet food retail with her small-batch sauce company Umamei, proudly made here in Los Angeles. Her Umamei XO sauce is a flavor lover’s dream: a taste bud ticking blend of dried hokkaido scallops, dried baby ebi, anchovies, prosciutto di parma, sansho peppercorns, xiaoshing wine, shallots and garlic cooked in safflower oil.  No wonder it’s currently SOLD OUT. We can’t wait until she whips up more!

Want to make a special recipe by Mei Lin? Come cook with Mei!

Celebrating Asian Flavor

These top chefs bring so much more than exquisitely prepared sashimi and delicious dumplings to the American table.  They’ve launched exciting flavor trends while blazing a trail for Asian Americans in the highly competitive food industry.  We celebrate Morimoto, Tsai, Choi, and Lin for boldly infusing authentic Asian flavor into (literally) every home in America.  Whether through their restaurants, grocery store products, cookbooks, or television shows, these Asian chefs have inspired innovation and inclusivity in American cuisine. We can’t wait to taste what they create next! 

For more information about Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month please visit


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