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Ken Hom - Biography

The Chinese-American chef who's served royalty was born in 1949

Chef Ken Hom smiling in an apron
Hannah Watkin
Content Writer
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Early career

Born 3 May 1949, Ken Hom ( 譚榮輝 ) spent his childhood years in Chicago, where he lived with his Cantonese parents, who shunned American fast food culture and send him off to school each day with a Chinese food lunch. By the time Ken was 11 he was helping out at his uncle's Chinese restaurant at weekends and after school, an experience he refers to as his "culinary education". 

A growing interest in cuisine developed further at university in California where the astute History of Art student earned extra cash by giving Italian cooking classes around his studies. While studying French at college, Ken traveled to Aix-en-Provence where - relating to the French love of good food - he fell in love with the lifestyle. 

MORE: Ken Hom reveals the best Chinese restaurants in London 

TV chef stardom

In 1982, having enjoyed success with an Indian cooking series hosted by Delhi-born chef Madhur Jaffrey, the BBC was looking to launch a similar format with Chinese cuisine. After Madhur recommended Ken (he had seen him give a cooking class in California) TV bosses got in touch. When it launched in 1984 the resulting programme, Ken Hom's Chinese Cookery, was a huge success and helped establish a glittering career that would span many decades through series such as Ken Hom's Hot Wok and Foolproof Chinese Cookery

As his profile grew the Asian food star branched out into his own range of cooking utensils and high-end pans, steamers and woks. In 2000 he took time out from the TV cuisine scene, but was back on screens seven years later with Take On The Takeaway, and Exploring China: A Culinary Adventure in 2012. 

Now an international jet-setter, Ken splits his time between Thailand, where he has a flat in Bangkok and a villa on the coast; Paris, where he also owns property; and a sprawling country retreat in France where he regularly entertains high-profile pals. Alongside his TV career, Ken has also authored numerous successful cookbooks over the years.

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