Chef brings a taste of China to West
Published: Friday, February 8, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 15, 2013 15:02
Before last night, celebrity chef Jet Tila had only been to Oregon twice.
“All I knew about this area is that you make good Pinot,” Tila said, preparing a demonstration on how to cook stir fry “like an expert.”
In an effort to liven up cultural dinners on campus, Jay Perry, Chef de Cuisine at the Marketplace West dining center, asked Tila to prepare traditional Thai and Chinese food. Tila was happy to come to Corvallis.
“I expected more knit caps and hacky sacks,” Tila said. “It’s all wet and cold. I’ve never been in a land of such green.”
Tila is was born and raised in Los Angeles. Tila grew up in his father’s Thai restaurant and with his grandmother’s traditional Chinese cooking. With these inspirations, he helped cook and serve lunch and dinner to a total of 652 Oregon State students, staff and the Corvallis community.
Working in the concept Ring of Fire, Tila had the opportunity to teach and cook side-by-side with Marketplace West employees.
“Working with [Tila] was fun,” said Majed Abdelras, a sophomore in business management.
“It would have been really stressful,” said Shayna Haack, a sophomore in human development and education. “But he was making jokes the whole time.”
Tila would step back from cooking to interact with the customers in line. He was curious to know who was eating the food and where they were from.
“He’s a very down-to-earth cook,” Nicholas Young said. Young is a student worker from the east dining center, McNary. He has the option to come to West and help out.
“He just made it a good time,” Young said. “He made the workers happy. He made everyone happy.”
Some customers, while waiting in line, recognized Tila from his appearance on Iron Chef America against chef Masaharu Morimoto. Tila has been featured on the Food Network, and owns restaurants in California and Nevada.
Around 6:30 p.m., Tila stepped out from behind the counter for a demonstration on how to stir fry like a professional. He interacted with the audience by asking them questions and making them raise their right hand and swear an oath.
“I swear to follow [Chef Jet Tila’s] wok commandments,” the audience echoed.
Tila showed how to tile, slice and dice peppers and other vegetables. While demonstrating how to slice at an angle, Tila said this technique is the “sexy” way to do it. He also cautioned against touching a hot wok.
The key secrets to Tila’s traditional stir fry is baking soda, cornstarch, salt and oil. As far as oil goes, he uses peanut. To prepare the wok, he pours an excessive amount of oil in, spins the oil around to coat the sides and dumps the excess back into its container.
“Yesterday’s fresh rice is today’s fried rice,” said Tila as he demonstrated how to prepare pineapple fried rice.
The second dish he prepared for the audience was Thai basil.
“Whatever takes longer goes first,” said Tila, instructing the audience on which order to cook food in the wok.
After the demonstration, people lined up for autographs and photos.
“I have the best job on Earth,” Tila said. “I literally have not worked a day in my life.”
Ioling Yang and Tai Long, international students from China, were both in the audience. When asked if Tila’s cooking reminded them of traditional Chinese cooking, they both agreed it did.
“They are similiar, but also a little different than food in China,” said Yang. “Today’s food is a little sweet.”
This difference in taste depends on which region in China the cooking is based on. Tila’s family is from Southern China. That, in combination with Tila’s personal style, results in his food being a little sweeter.
As far as cultural dinners go, this was a success, according to Perry.
“I think it was a great success of what we wanted to accomplish,” said Perry. “I think next time we need to have more food.”
Megan Campbell, forum editor