Chinese celebrity chef Ken Hom has been a keen supporter of Restaurants Against Hunger, raising more than £100,000 from his restaurants in the past five years. Before the charity relaunches its campaign this September, he talks to Emily Manson
Why do you support Restaurants Against Hunger?
It’s important for the industry to be aware of others who don’t have it so easy. We can get spoilt, as we live such idyllic lives, but we must remain vigilant and conscious of things around us. We worry about over-eating, but other people don’t even have enough food to survive.
How does the charity raise money?
It’s just a quid on the bill, and most people are more than willing to participate – many give more. We don’t want to make people feel guilty but it’s important to recognise how fortunate we are and to be socially responsible.
Are you ever bored of wok cooking?
Not if it’s done well. It’s great to see people all over the UK adopting woks as a common household item. Thirty years ago, no one had really heard of them and now one in eight homes have a Ken Hom wok – that’s scary.
How has Chinese cookery changed since the 1970s?
In the early 1970s, you couldn’t even find ginger unless you went to Chinatown. For my first TV series in the early 1980s, I always had to provide substitutes for Oriental ingredients because they were so hard to find. I never dreamt it would be so popular, but it’s part of British life now and has even diversified to Thai, Vietnamese and Japanese. The British taste profile has really changed – people now love spicy food and authentic, gutsy flavours.
You introduced Oriental food to the UK in the 1980s – what’s the next thing?
Instead of new things, each sector is consolidating. The trend is to take cuisines upmarket and make them more sophisticated, like Alan Yau or Nobu or Vineet Bhatia.
You’ve been cooking for more than 46 years – what keeps you interested?
The world of food is so huge that you’re continually discovering new flavours and tastes, which keeps me full of new ideas. There’s always something new to discover.
You’ve been very influential on Chinese cookery in the UK. What’s been your greatest contribution?
Opening the door to another culture and seeing it adopted as part of people’s lives. If I played a small part, that would be my legacy.
What do you think of the Chinese revolution?
It’s fantastic, it’s waking up after centuries of humiliation and throwing off the weight of its history. It’s good for the world, as Chinese only want to eat, make money and have fun – they don’t want war, so it’s very positive.
What’s your favourite food?
Anything good. My tastes are very simple, but an oxtail stew sends me over the moon.