By Isaiah Negron
Now a culinary superpower, Asian food is one of the most popular and sought after cuisines in the world. Bringing together all the diverse styles and flavors that encompass the fare of the Far East, the Taste Asia Food Fest comes back to Times Square with some of the world’s best Asian chefs in tow on June 26th and 27th.
“Taste Asia came out of an effort by the Chinese community in the U.S. to discover authentic Chinese culture in the form of food,” says Jan Jekielek, the co-curator with Channaly Philipp of Taste Asia. “They realized that the full spectrum of Asian food is very exciting to the mainstream American audience.”
Taste Asia originally started when the inaugural International Chinese Culinary Competition was held in a small Chinese restaurant on Park Avenue in 1998. Over seven years, nearly 500 chefs from 12 nations have competed in the International Chinese Culinary Competition.
The month-long celebration starting on June 1st will lead up to a free two-day foodie extravaganza in Times Square. The fest will feature the expertise of over ten culinary masters, including Michelin-starred chefs David Bouley, Hemant Mathur and Joe Isidori, Japanese Iron Chef Yuji Wakiya and Food Network’s World Extreme Chef Terry French.
“The first day are cooking demos, which are very audience friendly,” Jekielek explains. “The second day is more serious. It’s about finding the best Chinese chef in the world.”
The chefs fire up their woks and battle it out in Taste Asia’s outdoor kitchens. Festivalgoers can also cast their vote for the inaugural Best NYC Asian Restaurants contest, giving New Yorkers the chance to weigh-in on their favorite Asian eateries around the city. With the ability to vote across dozens of different categories, there will be various opportunities to help highlight a favorite dining destination before voting closes on June 20th.
“We worked very hard to get a very broad representative group of chefs,” said Jekielek. “We’ve got Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese and Indian, as well as a number of chefs working on Asian-inspired fare.”
Taste Asia also offers tastings from local restaurants and exciting live cultural demonstrations, including a special Dumpling Making & Eating Contest hosted by Cathy Erway, celebrated author of The Food of Taiwan and The Art of Eating In. To close the festival, a ticketed luncheon and VIP banquet will be held on June 28th at the James Beard House—the lunch highlighting authentic Indian fare from chefs Hemant Mathur and Surbhi Sahni, and the dinner showcasing traditional Chinese dishes from Chef Zizhao Luo, winner of the 2011 International Chinese Culinary Competition.
“This festival is the perfect way to bring the tastes and traditions of Asia to New Yorkers and visitors from around the world,” Jekielek concludes. “Times Square is the ultimate backdrop for this foodie festival as we are bringing visitors from all walks of life together to celebrate great food and Asian culture.”
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