Chef Ming Tsai brings Chinese culture to Saint Martin’s
Jessilyn Dagum, Staff Writer
On Nov. 4, 2017, Saint Martin’s Social Squad was able to conduct a one-on-three interview with the university’s featured chef, Ming Tsai. Tsai was the feature Chef of Saint Martin’s University’s 12th annual Gala, which helped raise 1.2 million dollars for student scholarships.
In the thirty-minute interview, Lauren Diuco, Mia Rollins, and myself were able to have a heartfelt conversation with the chef on life, academics, and his experience in the culinary world.
Q: Why are YOU here tonight? What’s your reason behind cooking for Saint Martin’s Gala this year?
A: It really goes back to Mario Batali, who is a buddy of 25 years, told me and said, “Look my Dad is going to reach out and is going to ask you to do something out in Seattle.” Mario being a buddy, I said, “Sure, have him call.” So he reached out and mentioned he’s a trustee here and would I be interesting in coming. Now, this is way in advance, this is like 18 months ago. It wasn’t even like they waited two months or something, they reached out over a year ago.
So really it was a favor to Mario, because that’s what chefs do, especially best chef friends. I mean, Armandino Batali is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He’s just genuinely sweet, incredibly proud of Mario and just loves all chefs. That type of love was obvious in our communication. I said, “Look, if I can come out and help Saint Martin’s University I’m going to do it.” And I’m glad I’m here. I’ve been incredibly well fed, which is important as a chef, and treated like royalty which is nice.
Q: So we heard you’re also a big advocate for higher education, how has higher education affected the person you are today?
A: I mean, look, I was born Chinese and I’m going to die Chinese. When you’re Chinese, like a lot of other cultures, education is job number one. I mean that was brainwashed into us as kids. It wasn’t questioned if we were going to go to college, the question was, “Are you going to get a Ph.D.? Are you going to get a Master’s Degree?” College was a given and I’m blessed because that’s not a “given” to a lot of kids in America or even the world. But, in my family and culture, it was: Respect your elders. Period. And do well in college. Period. And, as I said earlier, if you can become a doctor, lawyer, or engineer that’s even better! Those are the “professions,” as a Chinese boy, I could choose from.
Higher education, and its cliché but it’s true, it opens doors. It separates you from a large field of people that can work. If you get a college degree you’re definitely at a higher level, but it doesn’t guarantee anything, because there’s a lot of bad college students, but thank god there’s a lot of genius college students too. There’s college students, like here at Saint Martin’s, that have realized, “You know what, one of the most important things is not GPA, and not my next job, and not how much I get paid, but what I can do that 1. I love to do and fulfills my passion and 2. What can I do that’s going to leave this world a better place?”
“The fact that it’s in your DNA, as a college, and it’s obviously in the Monk’s DNA as well. I mean if you’re a monk, giving back is your job. I mean it’s their job number one1. It should be everyone’s job number one.”
Everyone in this room and everyone at Saint Martin’s is already better off than majority of this country. If you have that opportunity, and I always say this to college kids, “Don’t blow it.” Sometimes your biggest concern is your next test or your next paper. That’s a great concern to have but it’s not your next meal, which is a real concern for others. So the fact that you’re already here, take advantage of it. Shine and take advantage of it to make sure you do leave your mark.