Monday, July 21, 2008
San Francisco Ferry Building

$20 General Admission

$15 Full-time Students with ID

With the San Francisco Bay as our dramatic backdrop, we learned the many different ways celebrated chefs and food writers approached Asian flavors. They shared how they’ve overcome the challenges of introducing new foods to diners, how they developed their signature styles and how their personal and professional experiences shaped their vision of Asian food past, present and future. 

  1. Charles Phan: From Raku to Restaurants

  2. His early love of pork fat, his days bussing tables at an English pub, and how he gave up stacking kilns to express his creativity in kitchens.

Wine Reception & Book Signing

Chefs Kelly, Kirti, and Charles provided a delicious selection of savory treats from their restaurants. Elaine Villamin from Eden Canyon Vineyard poured tastings of Jolie, their excellent Bourdeaux-style blend, and Miette Patisserie and Boulette’s Larder created lovely sweets to finish the evening.

Book Passage kindly provided copies of our speakers’ cookbooks for the book signing that followed the evening’s discussion.



We were honored to have on the panel:

  1. Kelly Degala, executive chef, Pres a Vi and Va de Vi

  2. Eric Gower, author, Breakaway Cook

  3. Michelle Mah, executive chef, Midi

  4. Kirti Pant, executive chef, Junnoon

  5. Charles Phan, executive chef, Slanted Door

  6. Linda Carucci (moderator), chef director, International Culinary School at

  7. The Art Institute of California - San Francisco

  1. Kelly Degala: “Fifteen years ago, not one person would touch it.”

  2. How an ingredient moved from their family meal to the main dinner menu.

  1. Eric Gower & Charles Phan: Sustainability

  2. How Asian restaurants haven’t realized the power and pull of sustainable ingredients, and why Asian American consumers may not realize the importance of learning more about their food.

  1. Kirti Pant: Trying a New Dessert

  2. Somce diners’ surprise when eating kulfi for the first time.

  1. Kirti Pant, Eric Gower & Michelle Mah: Signature Dishes

  2. Presenting traditional flavors and textures with a modern flair: Sea bass with crushed rice crust and kokum sauce, matcha salt on poached eggs, and spicy tuna tartare with sambal olek and ginger-ponzu sauce.

  1. Kelly Degala: Accomodating Diet Restrictions

  2. The challenge of cooking and serving food with no dairy, no gluten, no salt, or no garlic (“god help that person!”).

Asian Culinary Forum gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our event sponsors:

Audio Highlights

Below are just a few of the memorable stories our guests shared during their conversation that evening.

JULY 2008

JULY 2008

Are You What You Cook?

** SOLD OUT **

We have sold out all 110 seats! If you’d like to add your name to the waitlist, please visit here and enter your name and email. In the event of cancellations, you will be informed of available tickets in the order of waitlist registration.  Also, registrations for the Symposium will be opening soon.

Monday, July 21, 2008

6:00 pm Registration & Wine Reception
6:30–8:30 pm Panel Discussion

One Ferry Building, 2nd Floor, San Francisco

$35 general admission

$25 restaurant trade or full-time student (with ID)

    Join us for a provocative conversation with celebrated San Francisco chefs. They’ll share how they developed their signature styles and how their personal and professional experiences have shaped their vision of Asian cuisine. We’re honored to have on our panel:

    Kelly Degala, executive chef, Pres a Vi and Va de Vi

    Eric Gower, author, Breakaway Cook

    Michelle Mah, formerly executive chef, Ponzu

    Kirti Pant, executive chef, Junnoon

    Charles Phan, executive chef, Slanted Door

    Linda Carucci (moderator), chef director, International Culinary
            School at
The Art Institute of California - San Francisco

Slanted Door and Va de Vi will provide a light buffet of savory appetizers. Elaine Villamin, Eden Canyon Vineyards’ owner and winemaker, will be pouring tastes of her family’s fine Cabernet blend.

Cookbooks by our speakers will be available for purchase on-site from Book Passage, and the chefs will be happy to sign copies following the evening’s discussion.


For details on parking, public transport, and cancellation policy, please visit our registration information page.

Our Panelists

Executive Chef, Va de Vi

Kelly Degala was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, and received his culinary training at The University of Hawaii. He has deep connections to the traditional Asian flavors of the Islands, as well as a clear understanding of the sophisticated cuisine that has come to be associated with the Hawaiian Regional Cuisine movement. Throughout his career, Kelly has received multiple four-star reviews for his menus, each reflecting Pan Asian influences. He has been the Executive Chef of a four-diamond boutique hotel in Hawaii (The Alana Waikiki), as well as Corporate Chef for both Gordon Biersch Restaurants (CA) and Anthony’s Restaurants (WA). Kelly’s fresh approach to Pan Asian/ Global cuisine has created a loyal following that has come to eagerly anticipate his creative culinary style that features bold, balanced flavors along with fine, artistic presentation.


Cookbook Author, Breakaway Cook

A week after graduating from UC Berkeley with a degree in modern Japanese literature in 1987, Eric Gower hitchhiked around Japan for one year and then worked for the Prime Minister’s office for fifteen years as an editor and ghostwriter on political economy. Fascinated with Japanese ingredients, he began to cook with them in nontraditional ways, which both surprised and delighted many Japanese, including two editors who asked him to write cookbooks explaining his “breakaway” methods and theory. Eric moved to San Francisco in 2002 and began frequenting the wonderful world of ethnic markets, especially Indian, Asian, and Middle Eastern markets, and combining those ingredients with his weekly trips Bay Area farmers' markets. Eric is currently a writer, cooking instructor, and private chef. He writes a popular blog called “The Breakaway Cook” and is the author of three cookbooks: The Breakaway Cook, The Breakaway Japanese Kitchen, and Eric’s Kitchen.


Executive Chef, Midi

Born in Seoul, Korea, Michelle Mah and her family immigrated to the United States when she was three years old. After graduating with a B.A. in Ethnic Studies, Michelle trained at the College of Food in San Diego and then moved to San Francisco to attend the California Culinary Academy. She became a sous chef at the Grand Café in Union Square under chef Paul Arenstam. While executive chef at Ponzu Restaurant, her first time cooking Asian cuisine in a restaurant, she learned about the distinct flavor profiles from different regions in Asia. While Michelle was at Ponzu, the San Francisco Chronicle named her one of 2006’s Rising Star Chefs. She is currently waiting for her new project to begin with Joie de Vivre Hospitality, as the Executive Chef at the forthcoming Midi, a California Brasserie serving modern American food. She will incorporate Asian elements into her cooking, where it makes sense, but for the most part, it will remain on the back burner.


Executive Chef, Junnoon

Born in northern India, Kirti Pant grew up on air force bases all over India, where he was exposed to the dramatic diversity of cuisines in each region. After training at the Institute of Hotel Management in New Delhi, Kirti began working at properties in the Taj Group of Hotels, renowned for its distinctive service and outstanding cuisine. He went on to become opening sous chef at the award-winning Cinnamon Club in London and then executive chef of Tamarind in New York City. In opening Junnoon on the West Coast, Kirti worked closely with celebrated chef Floyd Cardoz. In 2006, Esquire magazine named Junnoon one of the 20 best new restaurants in the United States, and the San Jose Mercury News called it one of the top 10 restaurants of the year. The San Francisco Chronicle gave Junnoon three stars and included it on its list of top 100 restaurants in 2007.


Executive Chef, Slanted Door
Born in Da Lat, Vietnam in 1962, Charles Phan and his family left after the war and moved to San Francisco in 1977. Once in the United States each of Phan's parents held two jobs, so it became Charles' role to cook for the family.  Phan studied architecture at University of California, Berkeley, and tapped into this design background when opening the original Slanted Door restaurant with his family, creating a stylish ambiance for traditional Vietnamese cooking with an ingredient-driven menu that changes often and relies heavily on California savvy. Eight years later, showcasing farm fresh, local products, preparing everything from scratch and keeping a limited menu has put the Slanted Door on the cutting edge of Vietnamese cuisine in San Francisco and far beyond.

LINDA CARUCCI (moderator)

Chef Director, International Culinary School
Linda Carucci is an award-winning culinary instructor and cookbook author based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2002, her peers in the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) voted her Cooking Teacher of the Year. She is the author of
Cooking School Secrets for Real World Cooks (Chronicle Books, 2005), which was honored as a finalist for the IACP Julia Child First Book Award and for a James Beard Cookbook Award. Linda has recently assumed responsibilities as the Chef Director of the culinary arts programs launching in 2008 at The International Culinary School at Art Institute of California-San Francisco.



Asian Culinary Forum gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our event sponsors.



Audio Highlights below!