Tan Kee Yun
The New Paper
Sep 2, 2015
In the world of culinary TV shows, Hong Kong singer-actor Nicholas Tse has emerged a maverick chef.
The dishy 35-year-old is possibly the biggest star right now helming his own China-produced cooking programme Chef Nic, which is currently airing its second season on China's Zhejiang Satellite TV.
He is also leading a surge of other international celebrities who are churning out culinary shows and cookbooks.
Billed as part-reality, part-travelogue and part-infotainment,Chef Nic follows Tse as he traverses the globe with guest celebrities in search of delicious, culturally unique food. Along the way, he also flaunts his deft skills in the kitchen.
Some of the dishes he impressed viewers with in the first season include mango seared cod and pork stew in red wine. Chef Nic is a winner primarily because it brings out a very human, relatable side to Tse.
Prior to the show, he had a bad boy image: Handsome and stoic - thanks to his cool cat roles in The Bullet Vanishes (2012) and As The Light Goes Out (2014) - but distant and emotionally detached.
While Tse already wears many hats - he is also a host and owner of a production house - the success of Chef Nic has also led to other sidelines for him.
He has two cookie brands, Taste of Nic and Chef Nic Moon Cookies (believed to be sold for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival), and a bakery, Taste of Fung By Beyond Dessert in Central, Hong Kong.
He is also selling kitchenware such as chef's knives, aprons and oven mitts on a Chinese online site.
Chef Nic emerged as such a hit in its first season last year - its ratings averaged third highest in China, trumping most of its competitors in the same timeslot - that it was swiftly renewed for a follow-up, with a bigger budget and more manpower deployed.
While Tse previously hosted the show alone, he now has a support team of "cooks", comprising fellow Hong Kong actor William Chan, Chinese pop duo Yu Quan and actress Ma Su.
Celebrities who have made appearances on the show include Chinese A-list star Vicki Zhao, who took Tse on a tour around her vineyard in Bordeaux, France, and Hong Kong actor Nick Cheung, whom he went crab-catching with in Victoria, Australia.
Fans here can stream episodes of the second season, which premiered on Aug 1, at v.qq.com/detail/2/21615.html. In an interview with website Sina.com, Tse - who has two sons with ex-wife, Hong Kong actress Cecilia Cheung, and is now dating ex-girlfriend, Chinese singer Faye Wong - said he had planned to do a "short cooking series, 15 minutes per episode".
"I never expected the end product to be so grand," said Tse. "Not only was each episode (of Chef Nic) 60 minutes, it was filmed and edited like a movie... There is a cinematic quality to it."
Throughout the show, the toughest challenge, he said, was the constant jet-setting. "The production crew and myself visited so many countries in eight to 10 months, we must have flown more than 400,000km," he said.
"But it was all worth it, as (the show) changed my life." In a separate interview with online video portal Youku, Tse said that cooking has brought him "unexpected joys in life".
"Through cooking, I've become closer to my mum," he said. "Also, I feel that when youngsters look at me cook, it will be a positive influence on them." Cooking also keeps him grounded.
"I think it's important to keep oneself balanced and the best place is the kitchen," he told People.cn.
"Whenever I cook for my family, friends, my staff, I want to hear their criticism. It keeps me anchored to reality."
This article was first published on September 2, 2015.
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