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Chef Joyce Chen brought cutting-edge techniques and branding to the American culinary industry

in Culinary Traditions & Food Ways by

Five things you need to know about Chinese American celebrity chef, Joyce Chen who revolutionized American cooking.

Do you know how many times a day I reach for a “plastic” cutting board? Or kitchen shears. Today, I learned that I have to thank Joyce Chen for a number of things that I take for granted daily in my culinary life. 

Here is just a taste of the many things she accomplished:

  1. She introduced the polyethylene-cutting boards made by Sumitomo Bakelite to the U.S., which she discovered while eating sushi at a restaurant in Japan.
  1. She patented and marketed the flat bottom wok with a handle to the U.S. market in 1970, which she called the Peking Wok. Spoiler alert: Woks for the East do not work properly on western stove tops due to design (happy to explain this to you at great length while I teach you how to make Everyday Pad Thai in a skillet).
  1. She pioneered the sale of bottled Chinese sauces, which she first sold to supermarkets in 1984. Joyce Chen foods is still owned and operated by her son Stephen. Try their double black soy sauce.

  1. Scissors were always used in many Asian cuisines in place of a knife for fast and exact-cutting for everything from steaks to noodles. Joyce Chen introduced kitchen shears to western households with the design of her “Unlimited” Scissors.

Unequivocally, the best pair of shears is the Original “Unlimited” Scissors by Joyce Chen. The main appeal to the scissors is their durability and sharpness. Only her patented scissors can be used to seamlessly and quickly break down a whole lobster by precisely piercing through the shell. At the same time, the scissors are small enough to fit in your pocket, so you can always have them around. The grip feels as comfortable as a fancy knife and the size of the blade is short, which allows you to control the cut, especially when you are doing precise work.

  1. In 1962, she self-published her book, The Joyce Chen Cook Book, an innovative, influential cookbook that was rejected by publishers because she insisted on including colored photos of food. This is hilarious to me because back then, publishers thought that no one wanted color photos of food. Today, color photos of food is the standard. 

Chen’s book was also one of the first with an index, which is a grid for recipes to help home cooks determine what to make depending on the time available. Recipes were organized from easy to complex. The book was also the first, one of the first with flat binding so you could lay it flat and actually use it in the kitchen.

Currently, Chen is one of five chefs to ever grace a postage stamp. The other four are Julia Child, James Beard, Edna Lewis, and Felipe Rojas-Lombari. Chef Chen, like the others mentioned, revolutionized American Cuisine.

Chef Cassandra Loftlin travels around the world digging into sumptuous dishes.

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