As the wind blew ripples into the lagoon water outside of in Foster City on a sunny Friday afternoon, a TV production crew swarmed around a smallish, younger Chinese woman holding pink summery drinks made with lemonade and ginger beer.
The center of attention was Ching-He Huang, host of the Cooking Channel's series "Chinese Food Made Easy." The show's second season is being shot throughout the Bay Area, and the picture-esque setting of the park near the water drew Huang and her crew to Foster City.
Huang, a native of Taiwan, who has also lived in Johannesburg , South Africa and London, England, attempts to meld all her cultural influences together into a simple Chinese fusion cooking style.
She has a unique style of cooking that is easily translatable to an audience that is not comprised of food aficionados, which is what makes "Chinese Food Made Easy,"' so appealing.
But even as Huang was learning the traditional style of Chinese cooking from her grandmother, which laid the groundwork for her path to television stardom, she didn't think she would ever pursue culinary arts as a lifestyle.
"I used to think cooking was a chore, I honestly didn't think cooking would be a career," said Huang.
Huang pursued an economics degree in college and believed she was destined to become a banker, until she had an epiphany over what turned out to be a disgusting and flavorless lunch order from a local sandwich shop in London.
After suffering and choking through a disgusting noodle order, which she purchased for a handsome price, Huang was inspired to take the cooking lessons she learned from her mother and grandmother in the kitchen and turn that into a successful business.
"I thought I could do this. But I could do it better," she said.
So, with the assistance of her parents, Huang began renting commercial kitchen space and started her own business, making prepared lunches to be sold in local supermarkets throughout London.
But the food industry was not the cake walk she had initially expected it to be. Huang found that customers were not buying her packaged noodle lunches, despite their quality, and instead purchasing the alternative options available.
After visiting the supermarkets where her lunches were offered, and talking with the customers who had picked up her meals, then putting them down and purchasing another meal instead, she learned why her sales were down.
Huang's lunches were too complex. They demanded too much energy to prepare. Hungry people were not interested in mixing the separated ingredients Huang had offered in her lunches. Customers would rather buy the food that was ready to eat as soon as a box was opened, said Huang.
So after taking what she learned, doing more preparation and repackaging the way her meals were offered, Huang's business skyrocketed.
After nearly four years of preparing quick meals, eventually it was delivering to customers that same simplicity which made Huang's lunches successful that made her attractive to television executives.
Huang did a trial meal for Cooking Channel producers, who were immediately impressed, and offered her a chance to display her simple approach to complex tasting Chinese food.
"Chinese Food Made Easy," enjoyed a successful first season last year and is back for a second, which will be filmed in San Francisco, and in surrounding areas.
Friday afternoon Huang came to Foster City to demonstrate how to make a dish of mussels, as well as her summery lemonade drink, and enjoy some of the local culture.
She took a ride on a Dragon Boat around the lagoon, and then served up some of her shellfish specialty to the crew.
"I figured I'd make some mussels for the guys who need muscles," she said laughing.
Huang expressed her appreciation for the local sights and people that Foster City has to offer. She said she attended last weekend's Farmers Market at the Peninsula Jewish Community City and extolled praise for the local vendors who supplied her with lemon grass and sweet potatoes.
"I love it here. There's so much going on. It's so cool," said Huang.
The episode of "Chinese Food Made Easy," hosted by Ching-He Huang, that was filmed Friday in Foster City is scheduled to premier September 10 on the Cooking Channel.
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