As a freelance journalist and food writer living in Beijing, Jen Lin-Liu already had a ringside seat for China’s exploding food scene. When she decided to enroll in a local cooking schoolheld in an unheated classroom with nary a measuring cup in sightshe jumped into the ring herself. In Serve the People, Lin-Liu gives a memorable and mouthwatering cook’s tour of today’s China as she progresses from cooking student to noodle-stall and dumpling-house apprentice to intern at a chic Shanghai restaurant. The characters she meets along the way include poor young men and women streaming in from the provinces in search of a rice bowl” (living wage), a burgeoning urban middle class hungry for luxury after decades of turmoil and privation, and the mentors who take her in hand in the kitchen and beyond. Together they present an unforgettable slice of contemporary China in the full swing of social and economic transformation.
Chinese-American journalist Lin-Liu's delightful mixture of memoir and cookbook records her years living and working in Shanghai and Beijing, when she attended a vocational cooking school and discovered a passion for Chinese cooking and culture. Growing up in the U.S. to Taiwan-born parents, the author admits feeling "alienated" from her heritage when she first moved to China in 2000; a graduate of an American journalism school, she eventually became the food editor at TimeOut Beijing. Moving between Shanghai and Beijing, she begins her account with her frustrating yet ultimately rewarding study at the Hualian Cooking School in Beijing, where she apprenticed to one of the school's instructors, Chairman Wang, an old-style cook raised during the Cultural Revolution, who taught the author the rudiments of chopping, shopping and how to pass the cooking exam. Despite the flimsy certificate, bias against women working in professional kitchens and the reluctance to hire foreigners, Lin-Liu found work at Chef Zhang's noodle stall serving migrant workers and at the popular dumpling house Xian'r Lao Man; she later snagged a plum internship at Jereme Leung's upscale Shanghai restaurant, Whampoa Club. Incorporating stories of many of the Chinese she worked alongside (and their recipes), as well as trips to the MSG factory in Henan or to the rice-growing Guangxi province, Lin-Liu offers a thoroughgoing, spirited celebration of overcoming cultural barriers. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.