Ken Hom is a Chinese-American cook who became famous for introducing Chinese cooking to the British public through a BBC TV series in the early 1980s. Since then he has written almost 40 books, sold around eight million woks, and become regarded as an authority on Chinese cuisine.
Emily Thomas visits the 70-year-old in his Paris flat to hear about his life told through five memorable dishes. He describes his impoverished childhood in Chicago’s Chinatown, from using his mother’s packed lunches to barter for better treatment at school, to working in a kitchen as an 11-year-old – a job that would put him off the restaurant business for life. Ken describes the dishes only served to Americans in a 1960s Chinese restaurant, and re-enacts the nerve wracking screen test at the BBC 40 years ago, that was to change his life. Ken also explains what he thinks matters most in the food world today, why he has always kept his personal life, private, and how his early childhood experiences fed an entrepreneurial streak that would last his entire life.
(Picture: Ken Hom. Credit: Getty Images/ BBC)
Eating with Etna
What’s it like to live and farm on one of the world’s most active volcanoes? Mount Etna in Sicily, Italy, regularly erupts, blasting lava and ash over the Mediterranean island and causing dozens of earthquakes each year. So why do so many food producers stake their livelihoods on its rocky slopes?
Benjamin Spencer, an American wine expert who has adopted Etna as his home, meets its wine, olive and fruit growers, as well as the chefs whose dishes take inspiration from the fiery mountain. They explain how millennia of lava flows have made the volcano’s soils rich in nutrients and that the volcano is a vital branding tool, but also how some eruptions have almost wiped out entire farms.
Ben discovers that people’s desire to farm there, despite the risks, is part of an almost spiritual connection with the land and the mountain.
(Picture: Mount Etna erupting. Credit: Antonio Parrinello/ReutersS/BBC)
Foraging: Pleasure or profit?
Most of us have no need to hunt in the wild for our food, so why is foraging seeing a resurgence in some parts of the world?
Emily Thomas speaks to professional foragers in Peru, Sweden and England to find out the appeal of combing rocky shores for seaweed or trekking up mountains for rare fruits. Is it the love of a freebie, the thrill of the chase, or simply a sense of wonder at our natural world?
We hear about the rules governing what, where and how much you can harvest from the wild, and that the forager’s freedoms can be extensive.
But as wild finds become increasingly visible on the menus of top restaurants and sometimes end up on our supermarket shelves, could natural habitats become threatened, and does something integral get lost when money changes hands?
Producers: Marijke Peters and Simon Tulett.
(Photo: John Wright picking seaweed. Credit: BBC)
Ritual slaughter under threat
Belgium is the latest European country to put restrictions on religious slaughter methods. For many this is purely an animal welfare issue, but others see the changes as part of an anti-immigration shift pushed by right-wing nationalists. For some, the new laws are an assault on religious freedom.
Emily Thomas visits the country to explore the impact the new laws are having on Muslim and Jewish communities and businesses, and to find out whether ritual slaughter practices are being driven underground.
(Photo: Pair of hands hold a joint of meat. Credit: BBC/ Getty Images)
The young pub bosses reviving the British boozer
For decades we’ve been warned about the demise of the British pub, but despite this the number of young people signing up to run them appears to be rising.
Pubs have been the cornerstone of UK communities for centuries, but around a quarter of them have closed in the last decade - taxes, cheap alcohol in supermarkets, and the smoking ban are often blamed.
But that’s not putting off people in their twenties and thirties from taking them on. Emily Thomas is in the pub with three young publicans - Elliott Dickinson, Laura Field, and Liam Holyoak-Rackal, to find out why.
Can they be in it for the money, or is it something else - what exactly is the lure of the traditional British pub? And how do you encourage more young people to drink in them, without losing the customers who’ve been propping up the bar for decades?
(Photo left-to-right: Elliott Dickinson, Liam Holyoak-Rackal and Laura Field. Credit: BBC)