A quick chat with Ken Hom

Chef Ken Hom returns to his ancestral homeland to explore the changing face and food of China.

Although born in America, Ken Hom is hugely proud of his Chinese heritage.

His new BBC2 cookery travelogue Exploring China follows him as he and fellow TV chef Ching-He Huang take a 3000-mile trip around the land of his forbears to explore the country’s culture and cuisine.

We caught up with the 63-year-old chef to find out more…

Food is a huge part of China’s cultural history… My new series is as much about food’s context in social change in China. It’s not just me chopping food and cooking it.

The last time I was in China, it seemed 50 years behind the times… There were dusty, unpaved streets, like something out of the American Wild West. Now you go to places like Chengdu in the Sichuan region, and there are malls and Apple stores – albeit fake ones.

Everybody thought Ching was my daughter… I’m 30-odd years older than her. She was incredibly deferential and called me Shi Fu, which means Master. It made me feel so old.

I think Canton has the best cuisine in China, but then I am Cantonese… I went back to my home village of Kaiping, where I cooked on the family farm, swept my ancestors’ graves, and burned incense for them.

When I first started presenting cookery programmes, I wanted to be a teacher, not an entertainer… Of all the TV chefs, I admire Delia Smith the most, because she’s a real teacher.

I was diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago, but I’m fine now… If you catch it right away, it’s not the end of the world. We live in an age where medical miracles are performed every day.

I’m quite fatalistic about life… I was in Japan during the earthquake last year, which was pretty scary. I’ve experienced one in LA, too, and I was in Beijing during the Tiananmen Square protests. You have to go with the flow, and I like to consider myself British in that way, as I have a stiff upper lip.

Exploring China begins on BBC2 on Sunday, August 5 at 8pm