Cooking Up a Storm: Jon Kung Visits Ann Arbor

Mark your calendars for Jon Kung’s back-to-back visits to Ann Arbor. On December 4, Kung celebrates the launch of his new cookbook, ‘Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third-Culture Kitchen,’  at Literati Bookstore.

Although currently sold out, his tour continues on December 5 at Miss Kim’s with a special 3-course meal, featuring some of Kung’s recipes from the cookbook. These events in Ann Arbor are highlights of Kung’s nationwide tour, which also features appearances in major cities such as New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, and his stomping grounds of Detroit.

Kung’s connection to Ann Arbor dates back to his educational journey. Initially, he attended Concordia University in Ann Arbor but soon transferred to Eastern Michigan University. This early chapter in Michigan set the stage for his diverse and unconventional path.

Culinary beginnings

Jon Kung’s story, like his cooking, is rich and layered.

Born in Los Angeles, he grew up between Hong Kong and Toronto, absorbing diverse culinary influences. His initial foray into cooking was driven by necessity and curiosity.

Kung’s education took him from theater and creative writing to law school, a decision influenced by the 2008 recession. However, in the midst of legal studies, he found his true passion in the kitchen, where he began experimenting with flavors and techniques, teaching himself through cookbooks and YouTube tutorials.

From law books to cookbooks

Kung’s transition from law student to chef wasn’t immediate. He started with pop-ups in Detroit, showcasing his unique style that combined traditional Chinese dishes with a modern, creative twist.

These early culinary experiments garnered attention from local restaurants and laid the foundation for his future success. His natural flair for combining ingredients and cultures in his dishes resonated with the local food scene, eventually leading him to establish his own pop-up, Kung Food, where he further honed his craft.

TikTok fame

Kung’s journey took a dramatic turn with the advent of TikTok.

Initially, he used the platform as a creative outlet during the COVID-19 pandemic to teach basic cooking skills.

His straightforward, approachable style and innovative recipes quickly caught the attention of a larger audience. From fundamental dishes to more complex culinary creations, Kung’s content reflected his journey as a third-culture individual and a self-taught chef. His TikTok fame grew exponentially, reaching 1.7 million followers and transforming him into a social media sensation.

More than just recipes

Kung’s cookbook, “Kung Food,” is a vibrant collection of 100 recipes that push the boundaries of traditional Chinese American cuisine.

Reflecting on his third-culture background and experiences in Detroit, the book includes innovative dishes like “Faygo Orange Chicken” and “Dan Dan Lasagna.” But it’s more than just a cookbook; it’s a narrative of Kung’s life, his identity, and his philosophy towards cooking. It challenges the norms of ‘authenticity’ and ‘tradition,’ redefining what Chinese American food can be and embodying Kung’s mission to decolonize ethnic food perceptions in the United States.

Kung’s personal life has been as eventful as his professional one. His cookbook contains a unique surprise that symbolizes the intertwining of his personal and professional journeys.

A marriage proposal to his partner, Jonathan Campbell, is cleverly embedded in the opening acknowledgment. This touching gesture adds depth to his culinary narrative and highlights the personal connections that food can foster.

Ann Arbor Event

The upcoming event at Literati Bookstore isn’t just a promotion; it’s a chance to meet the chef who has cooked up a storm in the world of social media and brought a fresh perspective to Chinese American cuisine.

Attendees can snag a signed cookbook, a perfect holiday gift for themselves or a foodie friend or family member, while witnessing Kung’s vibrant personality, hearing about his unique recipes and learning about his creative process.

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