About Kwoklyn Wan
I literally grew up in the kitchens of Chinese takeaways and restaurants.
Unlike other children on my estate, my playground was the Kitchen Store Room and when closed, under the tables in my Dad’s Cantonese Restaurant.
I’m sure if you cut me in half it would say “10 minute” (in a broad Chinese accent), which is pretty much what we told every customer who asked how long their order would be.
Grandad, like many Chinese back in the 1950’s opted to migrate to the U.K, the journey took a month by boat and on arrival he headed to the midlands where he finally settled in Leicester. In 1962 Grandad opened Leicester’s first Chinese restaurant (aka a Chop Suey House). Chinese ingredients were very hard to come by so the menu mainly consisted of British dishes like steak and roast chicken with a few beansprouts or chop suey dishes thrown in. The restaurant was very popular and was even visited by The Beatles when they played in Leicester in 1964. Dad managed the restaurant for the family until 1978 when he then opened his own restaurant “The Bamboo House”, which was Leicester’s very first Cantonese Restaurant. He sourced two amazing chefs from London and the business took off with a BOOM!
The restaurant as you can imagine was hard work and took up most of my parent’s time so in 1983 they bought a restaurant on Fosse Road North in Leicester (which he named as The Panda) with living accommodation above, this then allowed them to spend more time with us, “The Wan Children”.
Little did I know at the time but this would be the start of my career as a Chef. Every weekend and sometimes midweek I would be in the kitchen helping, washing up, peeling prawns or chopping vegetables.
“It was our way of life” and fuelled my obsession with food!
Dad liked that the restaurant was family ran and would often parade us around. There were even times when we sang carols at the tables to regular customers (much to my horror now). At sixteen I left school and assumed my role as a full time chef at The Panda. My days were spent preparing ingredients for the night ahead and in the evenings, I was creating amazing Cantonese and Szechuan dishes. Business was booming, we even made it into The Good Food Guide, where we stayed for several years.
Over the years I’ve run a full time Kung Fu School, a huge Martial Arts & Fitness show at the NEC, opened a trucker’s cafe, a Taiwanese Bubble Tea store and a Hong Kong Street Food Bar, yet despite my Many Varied business activities over the years, cooking has always remained at the heart of my DNA. It’s as simple as breathing and I cannot remember a time when I couldn't cook. I’ve feel so lucky to have been able to share my knowledge in a myriad of Magazines & Newspapers, on the Radio, at Live Events and even on TV, and now via the pages of my book The Chinese Takeaway Cookbook, which is The Ultimate Guide to re-creating your Favourite Chinese dishes at home.
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