Q&A, Edition #1

I recently announced a Q&A session on Facebook telling fans that they could ask me whatever question they wanted, and guaranteeing an answer to every question. Here are the questions I received and my responses.

Which cities/states in the US have you visited?

By visiting, I suppose you mean actually gone out and explored a little bit, not just pass through :). Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Austin, Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, South Padre Island, Austin (duh), Norman (Oklahoma), New Orleans, Atlanta, Washington DC, New York, Miami, Boston, Baton Rouge, Tallahassee…that’s all that I can think of for the moment.

Have you been to Chicago?

Outside of flying through ORD, no, unfortunately :(.

What is your favorite comfort food?

Tough one. Macaroni and cheese has always been up there. Fried Chicken gets me every time.

Do you have any soup idea you would recommend?

I love putting kale in soups! Brown some italian sausage and leeks, add chicken stock and potatoes, after potatoes are cooked add some fresh herbs, and toss in some torn kale a minute before serving. Delicious, and (if you drain the fat from the browned sausage) healthy!

Any advice for coming out to people that it might be hard to come out to?

Coming out is always very personal and unique to each individual person and their situation. What I’ve always done is to prepare myself for the worst case scenario and make sure I have a way out/can handle it. The first person I ever came out to was to my best friend at the time, a week before I left for college. I reasoned that if he rejected me and wanted nothing to do with me, then I was about to go off to college anyways and have a fresh start. In college, I came out to the friends I made very early in the friendship, before we got really close, so if it ended up being an issue with them, then it wasn’t a big deal to shrug it off and find somebody new to hang out with. And even with my parents, who I knew wouldn’t like the news, I came out to them on the way to the airport for MasterChef (with me in the driver’s seat, just in case), so even if they took it poorly, I had something to look forward to. The key is to make sure that if the “worst-case” scenario comes true, you have a way to handle it. It’s a terrible thing for somebody (say, a 13-year-old kid) to come out to somebody (say, his parents), to be rejected, and to not have a way to escape that rejection. That’s why I caution people against coming out too early, and am very thankful that I had the chance to come out when I did. It really was the perfect time for me.

I have been dating this guy for a month now and in two weeks he will come over to my house for dinner. What can I possibly make to impress him? He likes to eat pork.

You should make my pork ribs! A famous family recipe :). Take some pork ribs (baby back or back ribs preferred), and sprinkle them liberally with salt (about 3 tablespoons per rack, depending on size), sugar (double the amount of salt), sliced green onion (about 2 stalks per rack), julienned ginger (about 2 ounces per rack), soy sauce (3 tbs per rack), and pepper to taste, rubbing well after each ingredient. Let it marinate for at least an hour in the fridge, up to overnight. Place on a baking sheet, cover TIGHTLY with foil, and roast at 400F for 1 hour (for one rack) or 1 1/2 hours (for two racks). Carefully remove from oven and set oven to BROIL (if you don’t have a broil setting, just use the highest temp possible). Uncover ribs (be careful with the steam), brush your favorite barbecue sauce on top of the ribs (if homemade, even better!), and when your oven comes to temp, pop it under the broiler until the top gets all caramelized and bubbly (about 5 minutes, depending on your oven. Carefully remove, slice into individual ribs, and serve. Hope you have a fabulous date!

Is it true you kissed a girl and didn’t like it?

Ha ha, I have never kissed ANYBODY in a romantic way before. No guys, no girls. Remember how I said that I didn’t believe in dating in high school in my MasterChef audition? In retrospect, I might rephrase my sentiments to say “Most people should avoid dating in high school because they are not ready for the responsibilities that come with a relationship. I sure wasn’t!” but I digress… I have given a few pecks on the cheek (bises), but the only person that’s pecked me on the lips is the lovely Jennie Kelley, haha!. We were saying our goodbyes before I left for Canada. It came as a surprise and made me blush, but it wasn’t romantic :). Still waiting on that first kiss…

What is your favourite dessert to cook?

Umm…not apple pie. Creme brulées are always good, because the ingredients are readily availble, and if you have a reliable oven (and a blowtorch), it’s fairly easy to make and always impresses. Dessert is probably the one type of food that I have the least mastery over, though.

Who is your favorite person on MasterChef?

Probably Christine, because we started a friendship fairly early, and after filming was over I was able to go down to Houston fairly often to visit. I watched my elimination episode with her at her house and cried while holding her hand :P. But I love all of my fellow MC3 cast members! If you’re talking about the judges, probably Chef Ramsay, because I genuinely felt like we had a bit of a connection, and he was always the most fun to talk to.

What is your favourite Thai food?

Ohhh man. I love all sorts of curries (not too spicy though, please!), green papaya salad, any form of coconut dessert. I don’t know the names of most of the Thai food I eat (I just look at the descriptions on the menu, haha!), but Thai food is one of my absolute favorites.

Have you ever been to Vietnam?

Unfortunately not. The only Asian countries I’ve “visited” (using the same criteria as above for visiting cities) are China and the Philippines. Never been to Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, etc, though I’ve flown through the last two. If I have the means, I’d love to visit someday!

If you were to have your own cooking show, what would be the show’s name?

Hmm, never thought about this. It would depend on a lot of things actually, like that the theme of the show is (is it quick dinners? unique ingredients? food with finesse? comfort food? etc). What I have thought about is if I open a restaurant someday, I want my flagship restaurant to be named M.C.

That’s all the questions I have for now! If this is popular enough I may make this a weekly thing. Start thinking what you want to ask for the next edition :).

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About Michael Chen

A contestant on season 3 of FOX's MasterChef! Tune in on June 4 and 5 at 9/8c to watch me compete in the top 100 home cooks in America!
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5 Responses to Q&A, Edition #1

  1. Hello Michael!

    I’m Eats Meets West (no, that’s not a typo – it’s a foodie play on the word! :D), aka EMW. I loved, loved, loved seeing your cheerful personality and creativity on MC3, and you really gave me hope that as someone who is learning about the world of food, I really can learn how to cook if make some mistakes, get messy and have some fun doing it :)

    Kudos to you for getting into the restaurant business, and welcome to Canada! I’m based in Toronto, but I’m also learning French. If you don’t mind, one thing I can recommend to you is that no matter what, don’t be shy to practice your French, especially in Francophone setting! As long as you don’t say anything offensive to a stranger, the Francophones that know you will appreciate you speaking in French with them (it’s respectful to their culture and language), and most of them will even help you correct your sentences when you speak with them! :)

    If you have the time, when you’re looking for how to say a certain French phrase, check out http://wordreference.com and http://linguee.com . Both sites help out with French words and phrases, and unlike some translation websites, they’re run by actual French speakers. There’s also http://vatefaireconjuger.com, which is REALLY useful when you need to conjugate a verb and can’t bother to get a verb dictionary. I know being in the restaurant can cut off on the time you have to learn French, but keeping a little book/magnet-paper around while at work can help you catch the phrases that you hear and can be a reference guide to you when you’re stuck. Aussi, si vous voulez, nous pouvons nous aider par faire une conversation en francais dans votre blogue (mais n’inquiétez pas ! I’m learning to speak French too :D). Maybe we can combine the best of both worlds and have some foodie conversations en Francais?

    Also, it was very sweet of you to answer some of your fan questions. Since I don’t have Facebook, I was wondering if you could answer two of my questions for you? My questions are: Where do you mostly get your food inspiration from, and how did you prepare yourself for MC3?

    Sorry for the long comment, but I just wanted to make your acquaintance :)

    P.S: Being a food show junkie, Top Chef Canada’s Season 2 contestant Jonathan made an apple pie with a sharp cheddar crust on Episode 12 of the show. Of course, when I saw him make it, I instantly thought of you :D . Be sure to check it out for some foodie inspiration!

    • Michael Chen says:

      Crap, I had a long comment all written out and ready to reply, and then wordpress deleted it :(.

      First of all, thanks for the comment! I appreciate them, ESPECIALLY the long ones :).

      I’m leaving Canada in about a month, so at this point learning more french isn’t as important anymore :P. But still, I’ll practice it as much as possible. I understand quite a bit, especially when it comes to reading (understood your whole message!), but when it comes to speaking especially, I often have trouble remembering words that aren’t commonly used. Nonetheless, I can still carry on a basic conversation and express myself, although probably butchering the grammar/conjugation/vocabulary in the process :P.

      I will make a note of your questions and answer them when I decide to do my next Q&A ;-).

      Regarding apple pies, guess what Barack Obama had for dessert at his Inauguration luncheon today? Apple pie…with cheese! Hahaha!

      • Hello again Michael, and no worries :D ! I’m glad that you even replied to me at all! It made me feel special, aha :). As well, to somewhat reduce the chances of written text being wiped away from the face of the Earth in the future, may I recommend the Lazarus Form Recovery extension (for Chrome, Firefox or Safari), It really helps with those oops-I-wrote-out-a-long-comment/form/-and-accidentally-pressed-the-back-button-$#@! moments. The extension saves what you type even as you write it, so that even if something crashes or you do press the back button, you can still bring your hard work back :) . It also encrypts what you type, so any personal info you write is safe from being stolen. And that’s our tech lesson for the day :D

        Ohh, well I hope you enjoyed Canada Michael! But it must’ve been really cold for you while you were here, right? I mean, I’ve been freezing my butt here for the past week in Toronto, and I can only imagine how cold it might be in Quebec D: . Though be sure to visit us here again (during the Summer at least, LOL) – it’s much more tolerable then, I hope. And yayyyy, I’m so happy that you’ve been able to retain your French language knowledge somewhat from school! I’m trying to become a French teacher, and that gives me hope for my future students :P. But nonetheless, I hope you benefited from being in the resto biz here up North. Perhaps one day, you can share with your readers on what it was like going from cooking on MasterChef to cooking in a real live restaurant? You know, with all the good, the bad, and the ugly bits with it? I’m excited and terrified to learn what it’s like to cook in a restaurant for a non-culinary grad :)

        See, this is how we know Barack Obama’s got taste ;)

      • Michael Chen says:

        I’ve been forced to hole up in my room most of the time, as the windchill was -32C today >.<. Thanks for the tips!

  2. Aww, I’m pretty sure that the weather has to suck for you (seeing as you came from warm Texas) – and I’m saying this as someone who’s been through Canadian winters, LOL. You’re welcome Michael, and thank you for the kind comments :) . I can’t wait to see what else you’ll have up your sleeves in the future! Good luck with everything :D

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