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Chef Martin Yan visits campus on Jan. 26 to give cooking demonstrations in celebration of the Lunar New Year

At the event, a world-renowned chef and UC Davis alumnus engaged students in cooking demonstrations and prepared limited-edition recipes for dining commons menus  


By MADISON PETERS — campus@theaggie.org


On Friday, Jan. 26, from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., world-famous chef Martin Yan came to UC Davis to celebrate his Aggie heritage and kick off the Lunar New Year by sharing recipes with students.

The event was hosted in collaboration with the Cross Cultural Center and held at Latitude Restaurant on campus. During the event, Yan conducted multiple cooking demonstrations and answered questions from both students and the press.

Latitude diners were able to enjoy a menu that both Yan and the Latitude culinary team prepared beforehand, according to the Director of Dining Services Kraig Brady. Some dishes featured on the menu included Mapo Tofu, walnut shrimp and various traditional Lunar New Year desserts such as egg tarts.

During one of his cooking demonstrations, Chef Yan invited multiple students up to the stage to learn how to make hand-pulled noodles, a dish that he said is very important to Chinese culture.

All of the students who participated in the demonstration were given signed cookbooks from Yan. Additionally, Yan taught a group of students how to cook some of his favorite dishes, including Kung Pao Shrimp.

Brady reflected on the demonstrations that Yan performed and his engagement with the community. 

“[Yan] was really into being more a part of the community than being a celebrity here,” Brady said. “He wasn’t really looking for celebrity fame, he wanted to be here for the students and have fun with [them] — which showed.”

Afterwards, Yan demonstrated the breaking down of a chicken in under 20 seconds, a skill that he holds a world record for. Yan was able to fully deconstruct a chicken in about 19 seconds.

Earlier in the event, Yan announced the publication of his newest cookbook: “Best of Yan Can Cook” and said that it will become available in early March. In 2022, Yan and his wife Susan donated their collection of 3,000 cookbooks, photographs and cooking paraphernalia, along with $20,000 to the UC Davis library for the new Chef Martin Yan Legacy Archive. 

The recipes that Chef Yan created himself will continue to be featured for a couple more weeks to celebrate the Lunar New Year, and any student can go to any dining hall on campus to try the different dishes offered, according to Brady.

Recipes that will be featured include Creamy Pumpkin Chowder on Feb. 5, Lo Hei Salad with seasonal melons on Feb. 6 and Sizzling Firecracker Dragon Shrimp on Feb. 9.

Brady spoke on the process of working with Yan and his expectations for this new menu.

“He taught us to do a bunch of different style foods, he gave us a bunch of stuff we could work with and move forward and I’m excited to see how that turns out in the next couple of weeks,” Brady said. “Come taste Chef Yan’s food in our dining commons made by our culinary team.”

Many other notable chefs have been able to visit campus and help introduce more culturally diverse foods to the dining halls, including Native Chef Freddie Bitsoie, according to Brady.

Flavors From Home, a program that has been around for more than 25 years, is a part of an effort to try and diversify the food found at the dining commons and also allow students to submit their favorite recipes from home.

Any student can submit a recipe that is meaningful to them and their culture, and the chefs at the dining commons will recreate it to their liking and possibly feature it on the menu, according to Brady.

Brady expanded on the successes of the program and its impact on students. 

“We have dishes that we currently serve today that came from that program 15 to 20 years ago,” Brady said. “Our version of something may not hit the mark, and [someone might say], ‘Hey this doesn’t taste like my mom’s recipe.’ We say give us your mom’s recipe, and we’ll make it. And then we try it and have the student taste it.”

Bringing more diverse chefs to campus is something that Brady wants to continue, but he says it depends on the funds that the university is willing to spend.

Brady spoke on the importance of these events for the future of UC Davis Dining.

“I’m trying to look for these opportunities where we can celebrate different food cultures and bring in food experts from that culture to come and demonstrate how to look at it through more of a traditional lens than maybe what we are used to seeing,” Brady said. “[The goal is to] put ourselves out there a bit and learn some things ourselves.”

Written by: Madison Peters — campus@theaggie.org


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