Ching He Huang, TV chef, best-selling author and food entrepreneur, began supporting PAWA after hearing about the organisation’s work through committee member, Betty Yao. Ching has penned nine popular and best-selling cookbooks to date and is a regular contributor on television shows where she is respected for her fresh and contemporary take on Chinese cuisine. Her motto is “to cook for others is to share love & joy, to cook for yourself is to nourish the soul, choosing to cook compassionately is to be sentient”. As well as writing and presenting, Ching is the creator of The Lotus Wok – a wok with a dynamic nano-silica coating for high performance home cooking. She supports an impressive range of high profile campaigns and good causes – including PAWA. Here she tells Freya Aitken-Turff more about the enormous impact education has had on her own life and the power of breaking down self-limiting beliefs as part of PAWA10 Women.
“Learn the art of creating value, life is an exchange. Nothing comes easy, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Don’t just dream, one must DO”
What ingredients have been helpful in creating your career?
Not being afraid of working hard, being consistent and never giving up.
Being truthful and mindful to serve your soul’s highest purpose (and try not to give in to external expectations).
Tell us more about the role that access to education has played in your own success
My family first emigrated from Taiwan to South Africa in 1984; my father was in search of a better life for us. He managed to create a successful bicycle import business from Taiwan to South Africa – it was the favoured model of transport at the time! His business flourished. However, by 1989, there was political uncertainty in South Africa. Nelson Mandela was about to be freed and there was a lot of political unrest. So my family emigrated a second time from Apartheid South Africa to the UK.
My father had spent a fortune on an entrepreneur’s visa at time. He had built a successful business in South Africa and, as he was adamant on giving us the best education, he picked the UK. He had dreams of Oxford and Cambridge for us!
Unfortunately, all that he invested, he lost in the 1990 recession in the UK. Our family had to re-build a new life. My mother travelled back to Taiwan to work, whilst my father looked after my brother and me. That’s when I had to pick up the wok – to learn how to cook for my father! By the time I was 15 I was working in Next at Brent Cross shopping centre, having lied about my age to get a part time job. One late Thursday evening and I was working the fitting rooms, my head mistress came in with her daughter and I served them. Because I greeted her with “Hi Mrs Pond”, she realised that I went to her school…and that I was working underage on a school night! She asked me to go see her in her office the next day and I told her that I would no longer be able to afford school fees for Sixth form and I would have to leave school to work. She offered me a 90% scholarship if I did well in my GCSEs – The fees were £1000 per term so – if I did well – all I would have to pay was £100. I didn’t want to leave school and my friends so I studied hard that year and I managed to get the grades that meant I was given the opportunity to stay.
I completed sixth form while still working in part time jobs and went on to University.
I was lucky, it was a time when university was subsidised by the government.
I can’t stress enough the importance of education. It helped me enormously – to develop, focus, finish assignments, learn to time-keep, to become an independent responsible adult and to keep going! All these skills have helped me in my career setting up my food business, to become a TV Chef and cookbook author – all of which need a lot of perseverance, hard work and discipline.
What do you use to motivate you when things get tough?
I try to mediate every day and I do Qi Gong and The Five Tibetans Yoga. I believe in developing a strong spiritual self. I love painting and gardening…although I am not very good at either but will take any excuse to be in my garden or in nature.
What skills do you anticipate young women across Asia will need in the future?
I would suggest women in Asia study a broad range of subjects – Economics, Politics, Food, Physics, Ecology, Ethics and as many languages as possible.
We live in an increasingly connected and interdependent world. We will need more female leaders in the future to help create peace, compassion and justice for all.
Learn the art of creating value, life is an exchange. Nothing comes easy, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Don’t just dream, one must DO.
And how do you anticipate things will need to change to allow young women to develop those skills?
We need to encourage people to celebrate other women who are in positions where young women want to be, in all professions, all sectors to show them what is possible.
To empower young women, teach them that they can achieve anything they put their minds to through consistent effort, seeking knowledge and not giving up.
Change starts from within. We need to encourage young women to break down their self-limiting beliefs, so that they have a strong sense of self.
I believe women are natural born healers and leaders. Let’s encourage women to pursue dreams and goals that benefit society, to have the courage to act, and to re-define “win-win” in order to build a world where actions to not cost us our humanity, civil liberties, conscience or truth. We can bring real lasting change from a place of love and compassion – these are not a sign of weakness, but true strength.
Tell us more about why you support PAWA
I support PAWA because my future could have been very different without education! After all, I came from a farming community in Taiwan. My father was the only one of seven children that got a university degree (the whole family saved to allow him to do that). My mother wasn’t afforded the opportunity to go to University as her family was too poor at the time. She left her village at 18 and started work. And of course, having nearly dropped out of school at 15-16 had it not been for that fateful evening with my Headmistress – my angel – my own circumstances could have been very different.
Education brings opportunities to empower girls’ lives and transform their futures. I can’t think of anything more beautiful than the gift of knowledge to help another person reach their potential. By transforming one life, it soon becomes a ripple effect creating lasting change and hope for many.
Learn more about Ching and her career here: www.chinghehuang.com.
[image of Ching taken from her book ‘Eat Clean’. (Eat Clean: Wok Yourself to Health by Ching-He Huang, published by Harper Thorsons, photography by Myles New)]