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Bobby Chinn: Cooking's a gas

  • Story Highlights
  • Half Chinese, half Egyptian, Chinn made his name as a chef in Vietnam
  • Worked on Wall Street and as a stand-up comic before becoming a chef
  • Has published cook books and has own cookery show called 'World Cafe Asia'
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(CNN) -- Celebrity chef Bobby Chinn has tried his hand at a number of things.

Chinn's face for television: Picking up his Asian TV Award in 2007.

Chinn's face for television: Picking up his Asian TV Award in 2007.

English boarding school taught him that food could be an awful experience; Wall Street taught him that creativity was more important than money and a stint as a stand-up comedian taught him that you can't always get it right.

Half Chinese, half Egyptian, Chinn's grandmothers were his first introduction to the variety and pleasure that food can bring.

While his palate was subdued by the meals he was given at school in England when he was a boy, his meandering route to becoming a chef came some time after attaining a degree in Finance and Economics.

Moving to New York after graduating he worked on Wall Street.

Show times

Wednesday, July 8: 13.30 GMT (20.30 Hong Kong)
Thursday, July 9: 04.00 GMT (11.00 Hong Kong)
Saturday July 11: 05.30, 15.30, 19.30 GMT (12.30, 22.30, 02.30 Hong Kong)
Monday, July 13: 03.00 GMT (10.00 Hong Kong)
Tuesday, July 14: 16.30 GMT (23.30 Hong Kong)

"You didn't produce anything at the end of a day and you didn't breathe fresh air, you didn't know what the weather was like outside because you were on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It's like the dungeon of capitalism where time and money met," he told CNN's Talk Asia.

Chinn escaped "the dungeon" after a year and a half to the sunny climes of California, but it wasn't to laze around. An addiction to high-octane and challenging environments saw Chinn explore the possibility of being a stand-up comic.

"I was always afraid to talk in front of the class and now I am trying to make them laugh" he told CNN.

"One day you are really funny and then you go to another gig the same night and nobody laughs and then at the same time you are living a life of poverty. When you are bombing as a comic I don't think there can be a worse life."

While finding out the hard way how funny, or not, he was, Chinn was working front-of-house in restaurants, nurturing his love of food.

His break came when Hubert Keller from San Francisco restaurant Fleur de Lys took him on as a volunteer in his kitchen.

"He gave me a job and after one week he said 'OK, you can stay.' And then when you work with one really great chef, then I think you can work anywhere," he said.

After also training with chefs in France, Chinn made his own mark on the culinary world when he opened his first restaurant in Vietnam in 1995, and at first found the going tough.

"Supplies were not consistent, the language barrier, the taste barrier, the hygiene barriers. Those are very taxing on a person like me with very little patience."


A high-energy chef and now a TV celebrity who presents "World Café Asia" -- he won an Asian Television Award in 2007 -- Chinn is aware that being flavor of the month on TV is transitory.

"It is just a machine that feeds on people like me and then spits me out when my time is done. You just have to go with the flow."

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