In the 80’s when I was just a kid, I used to love PBS. When we only had Channels 2, 4, 9, 11, 13, 16, 22 and 53, I gravitated to the cartoons on 53 and the children’s programming on PBS, which was 13 and 16. Times were simpler back then.
On weekend afternoons, after my Saturday morning cartoons came the cooking shows. Julia Child, The Frugal Gourmet and Yan Can Cook took to the airwaves to teach anybody how to cook.
For some reason, after a small amount of time I wasn’t allowed to watch the cooking shows anymore. I think it may have been because during a pledge break I was throwing my mom’s plastic See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil monkeys at the television. They weren’t damaged and neither was the television but I really hated pledge breaks.
When I reached college, it was fitting that I was writing pledge break scripts and “Tonight on PBS” slides for the local PBS station. It was a fun gig and I really enjoyed it for the short period of time that I was there.
I had other run-ins with PBS over the years but it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when we were flipping through the channels and found Martin Yan staring back at us. His latest show, Taste of Vietnam is currently airing and we happened to catch a fun episode.
My wife and I knew Martin Yan was local so we wondered the likelihood of possibly one day meeting him. She looked him up on the internet and boom, a week later he was hosting a Lunar New Year celebration at San Francisco Center.
We waited until the day of the event to ask my wife’s grandmother if she wanted to tag along. She was incredibly excited. Taking her to the mall to see a television cooking show host was like the greatest gift we could ever give her. Even better than taking her to see Angela Lansbury it seems.
The celebration was taking place under the dome at 3:00pm. We left a bit early and ate lunch at M.Y. China, a restaurant that Yan licensed his name to and sometimes makes appearances at. The restaurant overlooked the area where the festival was to later take place.
It was pricey for Chinese food but seemed reasonable for upscale mall food. I really enjoyed my pork loin, beef noodle soup and dim sum samples and my wife and her grandmother did too.
After lunch, we had a couple of hours to kill. We camped at the La Boulange where there were chairs and I spent two hours sipping an iced tea while my wife slowly nibbled on a flourless chocolate cake.
Eventually, the performers starting rehearsing and a crowd started to form. From seemingly out of nowhere appeared the man himself, Martin Yan.
My wife caught him first and took a selfie and then came and retrieved her grandmother and I to take a photo. Martin Yan was very personable and when my wife’s grandmother said “I’ve been watching you ever since…” and stopped, Yan picked up on it: “…since the dawn of time. I know.”
The Lunar New Year festivities included traditional dancing, music, a noodle pulling demonstration complete with somewhat out of place but just right Gangham Style dancing and an awesome lion dance with confetti instead of fireworks. Yan hosted the entire two hours of performances, and even played the drum and cymbals for the finale.
My wife’s grandmother longed for another photo with Yan, but it wasn’t meant to be. It was awesome though that by tagging the shot on Instagram, the mall printed out a copy of it for us.
The Asian Art Museum hosted a table where you could make buttons featuring the year’s animal for the year you were born. M.Y. China had a price fixed menu for the evening. It was a fun way to spend an afternoon together.