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I want to use this location to share with you my passion in cooking, food and healthy living. You will also find past information about the cooking classes that I conducted in Winnipeg, the capital city of the Manitoba Province, Canada.

My cooking classes included Chinese cuisine and food from Asian countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore and Japan.  The classes were organized by the Winnipeg Community Services Department.

“If you have a pleasant experience eating something you have never tasted before, your life will be lengthened by seventy-five days.” – Japanese folk saying

May we all live to eat and enjoy!

The following is an article published in The Winnipeg Free Press about me on May 4, 2008.

Thousands of websites, hundreds of cookbooks and dozens of tv
shows offer the secrets of Asian cuisine.


Yet three times a year, when the city of Winnipeg publishes its leisure
guide, the frenzy to sign up for Kathy Man’s cooking classes is like rush hour
in the Tokyo subway.

Cooking teacher Kathy Man whips up spicy Thai stir-fried shrimp with mixed
vegetables in one of her popular Asian cooking classes.

“You literally have to register the first day,” Khalie Jackson-Davis, one of
Man’s loyal students, said at a three-hour Thai cuisine class last week.


Even on Day 1 of registration for spring, fall or winter adult-leisure
classes, demand is so great that waiting lists are the norm. Some Man fans have
to keep trying for several seasons before they secure one of the 15 coveted
seats in her demonstration classes.


Her topics include dim sum, various kinds of sushi, Asian appetizers, Chinese
noodles, Asian wraps, tofu, dumplings and wontons, to name just a few.


A one-evening program generally costs $18, plus a $5 fee to cover food costs.
Man teaches about 15 programs each season, always on Monday or Thursday nights.


She has taught more than 80 distinct programs – sharing hundreds of recipes -
and some of her followers have taken more than 70 of them.


Jackson-Davis, a blond, fair-skinned teacher, has lost track of how many one-
or two-night programs she has taken with Man, but says it’s close to 30.


“She always says to me, ‘You should have been Asian,’ ” chuckles the young
student about the veteran instructor.


Another Man devotee, Bernice Witwicki, has taken 38 programs. “She is so
organized and so thorough,” Witwicki raves. “She doesn’t leave anything to
guesswork. There are some recipes I make over and over – the hot and sour soup,
the Malaysian shrimp…”


They don’t come for the sophisticated atmosphere. Wearing a bibbed apron over
jeans, Man teaches at the Fort Rouge Leisure Centre in a stark, windowless
classroom with cement-block walls, fluorescent lighting, mismatched appliances
and zero charm.


The tasting samples are served on foam plates with plastic forks. Man is a
non-drinker who is never going to recommend a wine pairing.


But the fresh, aromatic dishes that sizzle in Man’s expertly stirred wok or
bubble in her soup pot are so inspiring amateur cooks can’t wait to try them at
home. She usually teaches three well-tested recipes in an evening.


This night’s spicy Thai menu is stir-fried shrimp with mixed vegetables,
roasted rack of lamb with red curry sauce (which makes believers out of the
lamb-avoiders in the class), and coconut-and-coffee agar dessert.


“Everybody loves the food – that’s what they tell me,” says the petite Hong
Kong native, who claims the stress of 11 years of teaching has aged her but in
fact looks younger than her 59 years.


“Everybody loves my recipes. The dishes I teach, they are not able to taste
in restaurants here.”


Man says the key to her popularity is that she shows and tells students
exactly what to do, from how to locate a certain chili paste or coconut milk at
local Asian markets — such as Sun Wah, Dong Thai or Wenkai — to the best way
to stir a thickening agent into a soup without lumps.


“I tell them, ‘I don’t do magic.’ I measure everything in front of them.”


She distributes neatly typed recipe sheets that longtime students add to
ever-fattening binders in their home kitchens.


“Cooking is my passion,” she says. “Teaching is my mission.”


The no-nonsense educator dings a bell to bring everyone to attention if the
class gets too chatty. Her disciples say her trademark phrase is “Don’t smell!”
which she snaps in a high-pitched voice out of concern for hygiene every time
she passes around a condiment bottle for scrutiny.


Man preaches a kitchen scale is a must for accurate recipe-following.


Her preferences among TV chefs say a lot about her approach.


“I can’t stand Jamie Oliver (the Naked Chef known for casually tossing
ingredients by the handful). I think he’s kind of messy. I just don’t like that
way of cooking.


“My favourite Food Network host is Alton Brown (the science-minded chef from
Good Eats and Iron Chef America) because he talks about theory.”


Man says she has an innate ability to detect the subtlest flavours
in any dish and recreate them in her kitchen. “I’m really specially gifted for
this.”


But she also admits to being a perfectionist who finds it hard
to relax and is extremely hard on herself. After all her years of
teaching, “I’m still nervous. Sometimes I’m worried that maybe the participants
don’t like the recipes.”


She frets that something might go terribly wrong, like the “very bad
experience” that happened in a class.


“I was teaching a Vietnamese crepe, and the crepes stuck to the pan,” she
says with horror. “I was so shocked! I have done that crepe many times. The pan
didn’t co-operate with me. I just felt so ashamed of myself… I will never
forget about that day.”


When Man was growing up with five siblings in Hong Kong, she learned nothing
about the culinary arts. Her mother and grandmother were excellent cooks in the
Cantonese style, but the family had servants so her mother merely supervised
food preparation.


“My mom wouldn’t let us go into the kitchen. She said, ‘You just study
hard.'”


Man’s father was a builder. She attended a school he built, run by Canadian
nuns. Every student received an English name. Man’s was Kathleen (shortened to
Kathy) because it resembled her Chinese name, Kin Ling.


She and her brothers and sisters were taken to gourmet restaurants and the
meals at home were elaborate. “We all had sophisticated palates,” she
remembers.


When she married her husband, Hon Kee (known as H.K.), in 1973, Man had to
start cooking. She remembers the frustration of phoning her mother for help and
being vaguely told to eyeball the right amount of an ingredient.


Man worked as an executive secretary at a petroleum firm, but when the
company closed its Hong Kong operation in 1983, her husband was doing so well as
a mechanical engineer they decided she didn’t need to work.


Wanting to replicate the dishes she tasted while dining out, Man started to
take cooking classes and sometimes private lessons taught by chefs from top
restaurants.


She kept up the training for a decade, learning not only Asian techniques but
Italian and French haut cuisine. In 1994, she and H.K. immigrated to Winnipeg,
following their only child, Joyce, who was studying interior design at the
University of Manitoba. H.K. also had siblings who had settled in the city.


“We like the leisurely life in this part of the world,” says Man. The couple
are now empty-nesters in their immaculate home in the St. Vital neighbourhood of
River Pointe.


Man has an attractive home kitchen but says her dream set-up would include a
restaurant-size stove and a 25,000 BTU gas burner for stir-frying. She owns a
wealth of gadgets, including a machine that makes Asian ice creams in flavours
such as red bean paste.


Daughter Joyce, now 32, lives in Hong Kong and sends her mom magazines to
help her stay abreast of Asian culinary trends. Like many residents of that
fast-paced city, Joyce eats her meals out instead of cooking.


Man first saw Winnipeg’s leisure guide in 1997. Her husband talked her into
proposing a course called A Taste of Hong Kong. She has never looked back, and
for the past 11 years has shown mostly white Winnipeggers how to wow their
families and friends with the flavours of China, as well as Japan, Korea,
Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore.


While living in Hong Kong she travelled extensively – visiting Japan seven
times, for instance – so the only cuisine she has not tried in its country of
origin is Vietnamese.


She has twice hosted foodie trips, to Hong Kong and Thailand, for 15 of her
most eager Winnipeg students.


Local epicures who can’t get into a Kathy Man class will be glad to know she
hopes to find a publisher for her first cookbook. She says it will include
recipes ranging from spring rolls and seafood wraps to braised duck, sweet and
sour ribs, pork egg foo yung, mango pudding and lychee ice cream.


Unfortunately, there is already an author of Chinese cookbooks published in
Britain named Kathy Man. Winnipeg’s Man figures her published name will have to
be Kathy “Kin Ling” Man.


She is often asked whether she owns a restaurant — or wants to. “I don’t
want to work like a dog. You have no time of your own. I will never want to own
a restaurant.”


But like a professional chef, Man finds she almost never gets invited to
anyone’s home for dinner. Her friends are too intimidated to cook for her. So
they treat her to restaurant meals, but not usually Asian ones, because she is
such a tough critic.


“People really hate me,” she says. “They let me choose the food. When the
food arrives, I start complaining (to the others at the table). I think I should
stop doing that.”


alison.mayes@freepress.mb.ca