A new Food Network limited series is taking a look at the legacy of a father-daughter duo in the restaurant industry.
Food was always a huge part of Kathy Fang’s life. Her father, Peter, is the owner and head chef at House of Nanking, a popular Chinese eatery in San Francisco, so aside from the food she ate at home, she grew up in the restaurant industry.
“When my parents opened the restaurant, I was about seven years old at the time and they couldn’t really afford daycare, so I spent all of my waking hours in the restaurant,” Fang recalled. “That was basically my home, I would spend all day, even on a school night I would be there until midnight.”
Fang would find ways to occupy her time in the restaurant, whether it was running drinks, bussing tables or interacting with the customers, to even cooking in the back with her father once she was old enough.
“Naturally, I just fell in love with food, being around it because of the flavors and smells, even prior to the restaurant, I always loved eating,” said Fang. “My dad said that he would notice I would eat something — without my dad even asking — and I would be like, they have the best wontons because X, Y and Z, and I would try to break down a dish. I would try to break down a dish and say why I thought this place had a better version of that place or how would I do it differently.”
Coming from a family of foodies and having so much experience from a young age, it was natural that Fang would end up in the restaurant industry herself as an adult. At 27, she opened Fang in San Francisco, which — like House of Nanking — puts a modern twist on classic Chinese dishes.
As a chef, a lot of Fang’s cooking is informed by how she was raised. Her parents had two different styles of regional cooking, and her dad’s creativity is woven in as well.
“I actually feel like I’m the chef that I am and I create the way that I do because of my upbringing. Because I grew up essentially starting under my dad who, in my opinion, is actually a pretty creative chef,” said Fang. “When my dad first started, he was doing things with Chinese food that nobody was doing, he was very creative and I feel like he got that actually because of his mom.”
Fang and her father will be featured on one of Food Network and discovery+’s new limited series, “Chef Dynasty: House of Fang.” The series takes a look at the inner workings of the Fang restaurant, as well as how Fang and her father put their own spin on classic Chinese cuisine.
Fang is no stranger to Food Network — she’s a two-time champion on the hit competition show “Chopped.” She had always wanted to do a television show, but wasn’t sure what she’d do.
“I’ve done some cooking competitions and I like being on television, but I thought maybe it’s just not in the cards for me to have a show of my own because, in my mind, I kept thinking to have a show of my own, I didn’t know what else I could do in the food television realm. Maybe be a judge or something like that, but a show of my own, I don’t know what I would do,” said Fang. “So I kind of left it alone and got busy with having kids and running a restaurant.”
When Fang was initially approached about “Chef Dynasty: House of Fang,” she was a bit skeptical, but when she saw all of the pieces come together, she was excited for the show to hit the screen.
“I think initially, I was like, I don’t think this is really gonna go anywhere. I didn’t have any expectations. I didn’t think too much about it, but once everything settled, I was kind of like, whoa, this is really weird,” said Fang. “I’ve never thought about doing reality series. What is that going to be like, is my life interesting enough? We’re kind of private people, it’s gonna be difficult for our family to do. But things fell into place.”
For Fang, she is looking forward to viewers seeing the inner workings of how to run a Chinese food restaurant, particularly one that’s in San Francisco.
“Being a restaurant, a Chinese restaurant that is featured in San Francisco, which has the biggest Chinatown, the biggest Chinese community, is a big deal,” said Fang. “So I feel like, in that respect, I’m very excited about that.”
Fang says that when she first started Fang, there were some preconceived notions about how she is as a chef, particularly given that her father was already successful in the industry.
“You know, a lot of people who don’t really know me might have all kinds of preconceived notions. Like when I first opened Fang, a lot of people were surprised that I was even a chef. People thought I was riding on my dad’s coattails, and that I really didn’t know how to cook. I just was like running off of House of Nanking fame and all that,” said Fang. “But it’s not that right, it’s exactly the opposite of that.”
With the show, she hopes to showcase just how important her relationship is with her dad and how that relates to running a business together.
“The other aspect would be [to show] just how close I am to my dad and how traditionally Chinese I am. People also look at me and think oh she’s American, she must be very western in her style. And even my husband is still surprised that time by the way that I handle situations with my dad because in Western culture, if you’re a strong female figure, you kind of push your way through that you do what you think like you should do,” said Fang. “But in Chinese culture, there’s a very fine balance between that. You don’t actually openly disagree with your elders or your dad, who happens to be my business partner, you don’t make things uncomfortable. So there’s that whole balance of play that I think people be surprised to see which I would love to highlight. I feel like I can still be a very honorable Chinese daughter while doing things and accomplishing things at our restaurant and still being a badass female entrepreneur.”
But at the core of it all, Fang wants people to see that her experience is about family.
“Fang and House of Nanking wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for my family. Family is most important and maybe we haven’t grown quick like other businesses, but we’ve always done it in a very harmonious way, always prioritizing our relationship over trying to do something that might be difficult or rough for the family for the sake of business,” said Fang.
“I feel like there are a lot of reality shows out there that you know it’s very glamorous and a lot of times it’s a ton of drama but it’s not really something that’s relatable,” Fang added. “Now that I have kids, I think a lot about the content that’s out there and the content that we have here is not only true to our like story, but I hope it can be relatable not just for like people from Asian cultures, but people from all kinds of cultural backgrounds. I feel like we should have more shows like this.”