Ken Hom - Biography

Arguably the West's most famous Chinese cookery expert, Ken Hom is hailed as the man who transformed wok cooking into an art form. He's prepared dishes for royalty and countless celebrities, and launched his own range of cooking sauces, pans, noodles and rice and the back of his extensive culinary skills.

Horoscope : Capricorn

Born in 1949, Ken spent his childhood years in Chicago, where he lived with his Cantonese parents, who shunned American fast food culture to send him off to school each day with a Chinese food lunch. By the time he 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 student earned extra cash by giving cooking classes while pursuing a course in Art and French History. The course led to an extended stay in Aix-en-Provence where - relating to the French love of good food - he fell in love with the lifestyle. Years later he would return, and now owns a restored 11th-century property in the south west of the country.

It was around this time that, 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, having seen him give a 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 three 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.

Now an international jet-setter, he 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 the sprawling country retreat in France where he regularly entertains high-profile pals like Tony and Cherie Blair.

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