The director of the Chinese Restaurant Awards puts the spotlight on a deserving community of restaurateurs. 

The Bridge Builder: Rae Kung

Director, Chinese Restaurant Awards, Vancouver

It wasn’t that long ago that the mainstream Western understanding of “Chinese” food ran the gamut from chop suey to egg foo yung. But, these days, it wouldn’t be uncommon for even a casual foodie to hold forth on the vast differences between the seafood-focused Fujian, the fiery stews and braises of Hunan, rustic Anhui dishes or even classic Cantonese fare—which they’ll likely call by its appropriate name, Guangdong.

There’s no one more responsible for the pushing of this learning than Rae Kung. The marketing professional has been the driving force behind the Chinese Restaurant Awards since its founding 11 years ago. In that time, the awards have gone from a small local affair to today’s gala celebration that launches thousands of new and informed diners into explorations of the Lower Mainland’s vast array of Chinese eateries.

Along the way, she’s brought all cultures into the fold in an effort to foster a better understanding and appreciation of Chinese cuisine. She’s also pushed the adoption of Ocean Wise, and made partnerships with Vancouver Community College to offer scholarships for students. So the next time your pizza-loving college roommate suggests heading out for stir-fired geoduck with eggs and black truffles, you’ll know who to thank.

From left: Lee Man, founding CRA judge; Chef Sam Leung, retired executive chef of Dynasty; Rae Kung; Chef Leung Yiu Tong, retired owner and executive chef of Hoi Tong; and Brendon Mathews, founding CRA judge.

WL: What’s always in your fridge?

RK: Dried scallops, dried sea cucumber, shiitake, any dried food for making Chinese soup. I am well trained by my mom to make good Chinese soup.

WL: What’s your favourite unusual food and drink pairing?

RK: Chivas Regal with sweetened green tea and curry fish ball and deep-fried squid. This pairing used to be a trend when friends and I spent time in karaoke boxes in Hong Kong almost two decades ago.

WL: What’s your best kitchen hack?

RK: Season stir-fry lettuce with sugar, not salt—it will keep the lettuce fresh and green. If you season with salt, the lettuce will lose its green colour. I learned this from retired award-winning chef Tony Luk when he was on TV.

2019 Foodies of the Year ▸▸▸