Chinese-Australian entertainer's TV program lovingly looks at life's sweet, sour moments

(Xinhua) 15:47, June 19, 2021

Lin Jie Kong (L), director of "Chopsticks or Fork?", and Jennifer Wong, hostess of the program, sample a dish at the New Bo Wa Restaurant in Moree in northern New South Wales, Australia, on Oct. 21, 2020. (Xinhua)

SYDNEY, June 21 (Xinhua) -- If variety is the spice of life, then Jennifer Wong's bustling existence is akin to a generous bowl of Mapo Tofu with extra chili sauce.

To push the food analogy a little further, the Chinese-Australian TV presenter/radio producer/podcaster and food enthusiast's career is like a yum cha banquet of creativity and she is tempted to try everything on the trolley.

"I started out as a freelancer, so it paid to be as adaptable as possible, but everything I do is about communicating and connecting with an audience," Wong told Xinhua.

That unquenchable desire to share her thoughts, has led to Wong doing stand-up comedy routines on stages big and small in major Australian cities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Perth as well as Scotland's renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe and in Shanghai.

The topics she often explores are deeply personal, such as mental health and the hidden pitfalls of language miscommunications, yet they strike a common chord and a funny bone with audiences in far-flung destinations.

"My humor is about myself, my experiences; I never want to poke fun at anyone," she said. "I just talk about subjects that have meaning to me, that will hopefully also resonate with an audience."

One subject dear to her heart is eating; in particular, Chinese cuisine with a distinctive Aussie influence. They are the sort of dishes where heaps of juicy battered prawns are bathed in honey or mouth-sized portions of crunchy pork bask in their delectable sweet and sour sauce. For many Australians, they are dishes that tastefully evoke childhood memories of family celebrations at their friendly local Chinese restaurant.

As such, it is no surprise that Wong's latest project, the six-part online program "Chopsticks or Fork?" has proven a winning recipe for Australia's national broadcaster, the ABC.

The program, like much of what Wong does, deftly mixed diverse ingredients such as a dash of a travel show, as she and director Lin Jie Kong visited rural townships, and a generous dollop of cooking show as the duo sample the offerings at beloved restaurants.

"We wanted to celebrate Chinese restaurants and communities in regional Australia, because Chinese restaurants are such an integral part of Australian life. We wanted to share our curiosity about these institutions with viewers, who no doubt have their own favorite Chinese restaurant memories," said Wong.

Along the way, Wong amiably chatted to the hard-working chefs and their families and quickly discovers the how, why and when behind their chosen profession and their destination in Australia. She also interviewed contented, loyal customers who, between bites, told her what just makes the local Chinese restaurant such a welcome part of their community.

A common feature of the restaurants is their longevity, with many of the family businesses spanning decades as retiring chefs hand over their woks to the next generation to keep the spring rolls rolling merrily along.

So did filming the series ever made Wong wish that she too could settle down and set up shop in a picturesque rural town?

"I loved all six places we visited in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, and the Northern Territory, and could definitely see myself spending a few months in each place," she said.

"But I love city life too much, and bookshops and cafes. And also the huge range of Chinese food you can get in Sydney, with cuisines from Chongqing to Xi'an, Shanghai to Yunnan. I would miss that too much."

What a food enthusiast.


(Web editor: Sheng Chuyi, Hongyu)


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