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Saturday, July 2, 2022

Chef Martin Yan donates legacy archive to UC Davis

The renowned chef donated thousands of cookbooks, photographs and videos from his food and travel television show to the university

By KAYA DO-KHANH — campus@theaggie.org

Celebrity Chef and International Food Ambassador Martin Yan recently donated to the UC Davis Library an archive which, when finalized, will consist of his collection of thousands of cookbooks and various photographs and videos from his international food and travel shows to create the Chef Martin Yan Legacy Archive. 

“Hopefully this particular archive will not only give people more understanding about the history, the culture, the lifestyle, the food and geography of each Asian country and different parts of China, but also it will hopefully bring people closer together,” Yan said.

Yan earned a bachelor’s degree in 1973 and a master’s in 1977, both in food science at UC Davis. During his time at the university, he taught cooking classes to students at the CoHo on campus. Since graduating, he has returned to UC Davis to collaborate with the Food Science Department and to host live special events. He has also given a commencement speech and served as the Grand Marshall for Picnic Day in 2008.

“UC Davis gave me a very warm feeling and also a lot of great memories. […] When I graduated, I still felt connected to Davis,” Yan said. “Instead of having this in my own library, I decided to donate this to my beloved alma mater, UC Davis. I chose UC Davis because it is my home. My family — my wife and my kids — also went to UC Davis.”

Yan’s contribution to the library includes a $20,000 donation to digitize the archive in order to give access to as many people as possible.

“When I was a food science student, […] I remember there was no high-tech digitization… You had to come in and check microfilm,” Yan said.

The UC Davis Library will host a public event in early May 2022 to celebrate the archive.

“Join us for a conversation with world-renowned chef Martin Yan ’73, M.S. ’77, and his wife, Susan ’75, at their alma mater UC Davis,” the sign-up form to be notified of registration by the library states. “The event will include a cooking demonstration and book signing by Martin Yan.”

The library already has an extensive food and wine collection, but Yan’s donated archive is an important resource that adds to the collections, according to Kevin Miller, the head of archives and special collections at the library. 

“It fills a really important gap in our food and wine collections that focuses on East Asian cuisine and its impact on cuisine in the U.S.,” Miller said. “It’s also just a really unique resource because he got into so many places around the world that people have never heard of or are hard to access, […] but, because of his connections and his obvious passion, he was able to get into these small kitchens and corners of the world where these rare and, in some cases, dying culinary traditions were happening.”

Written by: Kaya Do-Khanh — campus@theaggie.org

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