The 38-year-old, a chef in the employee dining room at the headquarters of Express (formerly part of Limited Brands), also teaches cooking classes - including a sold-out one tonight about the Chinese New Year at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
J?im Yue was born in Taiwan, but his family moved to Phoenix four years later. Food became the bridge that re-connected him with his culture.
The 38-year-old, a chef in the employee dining room at the headquarters of Express (formerly part of Limited Brands), also teaches cooking classes — including a sold-out one tonight about the Chinese New Year at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens.
He incorporates the traditions and symbolism of the holiday, to begin on Sunday, into work and the class.
“The Chinese, we’re very infatuated with prosperity, wealth and long life,” Yue said.
During the new year, also called Lunar New Year, traditional foods represent the three goals — with noodles, the ultimate symbol of longevity, always on the menu.
The type of noodle, he said, doesn’t matter: “With Chinese noodles, there are as many as you can imagine — like Italian noodles.”The main difference involves salt: Chinese noodles contain salt, so the cooking water shouldn’t be salted. (Italian pasta is often not salted and should be cooked in boiling water with salt.)
The key to the holiday noodles is how they’re prepared and eaten.
“It’s very important that you have a long, concentric noodle that is never cut,” said Yue, of Grandview Heights.“Even when eating the noodle, you should not bite through it. Swallowing the noodle whole imparts longevity to your life.”
He once tried to forget the bits of his heritage that he enjoys sharing today with other people.As a new immigrant to the United States, he wanted to abandon what he holds dear.
“I didn’t want to be a foreigner,” he said. “I didn’t want to be Chinese.”
His attitude began to change during the summer he spent as a 10-year-old with his father in Los Angeles. His parents had divorced not long after their U.S. move, and he lived with his mother, assimilating quickly into American life.
His father, on the other hand, maintained the Chinese traditions and language.
“I remember spending hours with him preparing a meal that I didn’t want to eat,” Yue said. “I hated every moment, but it was through the meticulous way we prepared these dishes together that I was able to not only relearn Chinese but also re-connect with my culture.”
Yue had jobs in restaurants from about age 12, busing tables and washing dishes. He landed work in the dining rooms at acclaimed New York restaurants Nobu and Vong. Still, he didn’t consider food as a career.
After he moved to Columbus for a job in sales, he realized he wasn’t fulfilled.He started volunteering to do cooking demonstrations with Local Matters, a nonprofit group dedicated to making local food available to everyone. About 18 months ago, he took the chef position at Express, on the Northeast Side.
Tonight, he will begin offering cooking classes at the conservatory. (For a list of classes, visit www.fpconservatory.org.)
“I feel like they’re the next step in my evolution,” Yue said.
“I can share my passion for food and enjoying a better life.”