Rick Yang, Food Services Director
Ever wonder who was behind the elegant dishes served at the SI’s “Rock the Ages Fashion Show” this year? Or the genius behind the impeccable dishes served at the “Fathers’ Club Rock and Roll Hall of Fame”? And the healthy and delicious everyday lunch menu at the Commons? I sat down with Chef Rick Yang, SI Director of Food Services, for an 11 question blitz…
- Tell us a little about yourself?
I was born in Manila, Philippines. My family moved to the United States when I was ten.
- How did you get started with cooking? Who or what was your inspiration?
I may have been as young as 4 years old when my grandmother used to take me with her to the wet market to do her daily food shopping. There was no refrigeration. The fresh meat, poultry, seafood and produce were laid out on big butcher tables and by 9 am everything was sold. From the market we went straight back to the kitchen where I watched her create some amazing dishes.
- Outside of SI, describe your cooking style in 3 words.
From the heart.
- You are happiest when you are eating...
Authentic cuisines with friends and family.
- What is the most adventurous food you have ever had? And how was the experience for you?
During my first trip to Italy, I remember snacking on buffalo mozzarella while walking through a narrow cobbled street in Lucca and eating a simple pesto lasagna in a trattoria right in front of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. To me it is the best simple pleasures in life.
- What dish is your go-to for any occasion?
Roasted pig (Lechon).
- Do you have any vivid or memorable food experience that impacted you as a child? What, how, and why?
When I was 4 years old, I remember one Christmas Day when everyone was busy preparing food for Dinner. I remember in particular watching my Grandfather using an old fashioned clothes iron (with charcoal inside, not electric) to caramelize brown sugar on a whole ham leg. The experience influenced me in my style and approach to cooking, which is unpretentious and from within.
- You are in charge of two of SI's biggest events, the Fashion Show and the Father's Auction. What is the process like for you in formulating a menu for such events?
I normally would come up with a least 5 items for each course based on the theme of the event. After presenting the proposal to the chairpersons it would be narrowed down to about 3 choices, then the tasting. From then we finalize the menu.
- What was a typical packed lunch for you when you were a kid?
My packed lunch when I was a kid was in a three layered thermos (to keep warm) always with rice, two other dishes either with meat or poultry and vegetables. Seldom just a sandwich.
- What is the ideal breakfast you would wake up to?
"Longsilog". It's a traditional Filipino breakfast with garlic fried rice, sweet sausage, fried eggs and cane vinegar dipping sauce. Coffee and fresh mango juice.
- What is your favorite movie?
Akahige "The Red Beard" by Akira Kurosawa