Martin Yan always could

Posted by Ed - 18/03/14 at 11:03 am

“If Yan Can Cook so can you” is probably the truest statement I ever heard and experienced. At a pre-Commonwealth Club meeting with Martin Yan, we were talking with some other guests about Martin’s first cooking class in the US. It was at UC Davis in 1971 my last year of Graduate School and Martin’s first year at UC Davis. We both were in Food Science and we both wanted to learn more about the science of food as it relates to cooking. During my first year at Davis the only people that would talk about the cooking was in the Home Economics Department.

Martin and Ed in Feb 2014 eb3It was that fall of 1972 when I saw this Chinese Cooking Class flyer. “Why not! I said to myself it’s the main reason I was at UC Davis was to learn about the science of food so I could apply it to cooking.” Previously I worked as a Mechanical Engineer at the San Francisco Bay Naval Shipyard and now I was following my dream to learn enough about food and to get paid to play around with it. At that time there were only a few options. The Chef’s association in SF wanted me, the mechanical engineer, to start as a dishwasher; the only cooks on TV were Julia Child and Graham Kerr; and the only Professional Cooking School in the USA was the CIA (Culinary Institute of America) who were just moving to Hyde Park in upper New York state. My strategy was to learn Food Science and then apply it to cooking on my own. So Martin’s course was preparation for my re-entry into the cooking world.

On the first day of Martin Yan’s cooking class, Martin rushed into the class and apologetically said ‘Geez I never expected that they would charge so much :(. So if it is OK with you, I’ll teach you everything you can find on a Cantonese Restaurant in Chinatown?’ We all applauded with overjoyed smiles :). Then Martin came alive with the same enthusiasm, the same excitement, the same speed (or even faster to live up to his word; he did about 6-8 dishes a class), some of the same jokes, some of same stories, and the same loveable personality (and accent-for those that asked me at the Commonwealth meeting)that he brings to the Yan Can Cook show today.

Even though Martin’s first formal cooking class in the US was so many year’s ago, I remember Martin came with the skills of a trained chef, the capability of a Master Teacher, the speed that almost blurred our eyes and his enduring happy personality. Martin always could and shortly after his class ended I visited a friend in San Francisco and cooked a super multi-course Cantonese banquet for six guests practicing what I learned and proving that ‘if Martin Can, I can too’. From shopping in Chinatown early morning to ticking off each of the courses we sat down to eat about 7 pm.

You can hear Martin Yan’s interview at the Commonwealth Club at

Please add a comment, a thought, what you like about Martin, his show, his recipes, your favorite Yan Can Recipe etc.

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