What Chef Brandon Jew Wants More People To Understand About Chinese Cooking - Exclusive

While there were some Chinese immigrants living in America before the middle of the 19th century, it was, according to PBS, not until the 1850 that immigration from China began in large numbers. Although eager to work hard and create better lives for themselves and their families, many of these newly minted Americans were hardly welcomed into the fold. According to AsAmNews, most were relegated to working in laundries or restaurants, especially with Congress passing the ruthless "Chinese Exclusion Act" in 1882, a law officially denying full citizenship and rights to most Chinese immigrants.

The result? There was even more work to be done, and as a silver lining, Chinese cooking flourished in America. Eventually, Americans began to take notice, and through the foods being cooked in Chinese neighborhoods, the cultures could come together. During a recent exclusive Mashed interview to promote his Lunar New Year collaboration with Remy Martin, chef Brandon Jew said, "I think having cultures be able to share at the table and to experience flavors together, that's really to me some of the beauty of America, and Chinese American cuisine. Really the appreciation of other cultures and using food and beverage as a way to connect and get to know each other better. That's really the way Chinatown was able to break a lot of stereotypes and break a lot of racism in a genius way of kind of crafting the food and the beverage to have people come to the neighborhood."

Over the years, though, the foods Americans came to think of as quintessentially "Chinese" drifted further and further from authentic Chinese cooking – which is OK, in its way, according to Jew, because cuisine is always evolving.

A different way to think about "authentic" Chinese food

"Authenticity is very personal to people, what they understand as authentic," chef Brandon Jew says. "There is definitely tradition and there's history, but as far as Chinese cuisine, I'm interested in having people understand that it's also changing. It's evolving, and as we have these relationships with [local] farmers and, really, the mix between our cultures and nature, those are the two things that are going to continue to evolve [in] all cuisine. Contemporary Chinese cuisine, to me, is something that I think we're going to continue to see evolve across even America, and I think the tradition of Chinese American cuisine is that you're taking some of what is local, [and] using Chinese cooking techniques, and then developing a dish that kind of bridges the two."

In his own award-winning restaurant, San Francisco's Mr. Jiu's, Jew and his team are always striving to innovate while never forgetting the roots of the cuisine. "I'm really interested in using that ... creative vantage. So when we start thinking about the R&D of a new dish, that is an angle that sometimes we use because of the tradition of the chefs that have come through Chinatown. I think the other misconception is that a lot of times, people don't really know how nuanced the cuisine is and some of really the finer points of Chinese cuisine is a lot of detail ... I also am really excited because I think now more than ever people have a wider understanding of Chinese cuisine and understand [about] all the regions within China and the cuisines there."

You can follow Chef Jew on Instagram, and learn more about Rémy Martin XO's Lunar New Year edition here.