After working for year as a line cook and sous chef in restaurants, Melissa King has picked up a word or two of restaurant slang.
King, the winner of Top Chef All-Stars: LA and a finalist on Top Chef: Boston, is the cover of STYLECASTER’s November issue, The Culture Issue, which highlights food and travel experiences across the world. In honor of The Culture Issue, we quizzed King on restaurant words and slang terms like “fire,” “86” and of course, “yes, chef.”
“To me, it was the world I lived in for so long, where you don’t question your chef and whatever they tell you to do, you just say, ‘Yes, chef.’ It’s so funny to see it become such a pop culture reference,” told STYLECASTER for her cover story about the phenomenon of the phrase “yes, chef” after Hulu’s The Bear, which she “refuses” to watch. She continued, “I can’t watch it. I refuse. I’m sure it’s a fantastic show, but if you ask anyone in the restaurant industry, I think they’d be a little triggered by pressing play on that.”
In her cover story for The Culture Issue, King also explained how her background as a Chinese-American chef, who was raised in California and trained in French fine dining, influenced her cooking and career. “It took me many years to tap into the Chinese side of myself. I grew up immersing myself in Chinese culture and the traditions and foods, but I never thought to bridge the worlds together until after my first ‘Top Chef’ season,” King said. “The show helped open up a part of my identity and feel proud to be an Asian American in this country and showcase those types of cuisines on a plate. By ‘All-Stars,’ you see me dive in. I’m unapologetic about it. You take this Hong Kong milk tea tiramisu and you either like it or you don’t.”
However, King’s cooking hasn’t always been this way. She explained that, for most of her career, she was confused as to how to incorporate the flavors and ingredients she grew up with into her culinary training. “Growing up as a Chinese American, a lot of me felt torn,” she said. “Like I need to be more American as far as my lifestyle but I also need to be more American in my cooking style.” Now that she’s been able to combine the worlds, King wants to share her story through her food. “I want people to feel my journey of where I’ve been and who I am as a Chinese American who has trained in French fine dining, but lives in California. I want you to feel those layers when you taste my food,” King said. “But most importantly, I want someone to feel happy, nurtured and loved.”
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