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Scientist Turned Chef Yunan Yang Ditches Lab to Experiment with Food

Yunan Yang never intended to open a restaurant when she first arrived in the United States from China 10 years ago

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Chefs work with peppercorns shipped overnight from the owner's hometown of Chongqing, China, said Yunan Yang, the owner. VOA

Yunan Yang never intended to open a restaurant when she first arrived in the United States from China 10 years ago. Her plan was to study cancer. As a post-doctorate cancer researcher, she spent six years in Madison, Wisconsin, and worked to publish her findings in scientific journals.

She used radiation and chemicals in her research, which took a toll on her body. She said her job affected her platelet count, which made her bleed easily.

“After I (lost) two babies when (I was) pregnant, I had to make a big decision. My doctor told me, ‘Yunan, you have to write your last words (will) because we don’t have time to save you. Your body, whole body (at any) moment could be bleeding,’” Yang recounted.

For her health, and to prevent future miscarriages, Yang chose a second career as a restaurateur, moving in the opposition direction of many immigrants in the United States. Instead of entering the restaurant business first in hopes of sending her kids to college, Yang began working in the restaurant business after her life in research.

Scientists, Chef, Yunan Yang
Pepper Twins owner Yunan Yang left her career in cancer research and started her first restaurant four years ago in 2015. She now has six Sichuan Chinese restaurants throughout Houston. VOA

Her inspiration for opening a restaurant came during a trip to a conference in California, where she saw an hour-long line of hungry patrons waiting to get into a Chinese restaurant.

In Madison, the small city where her lab was located, she said “We don’t have a good Chinese restaurant.”

Yang did not start a restaurant in Chinese enclaves like many other immigrants across the U.S. She opened restaurants outside of Chinese communities, in affluent neighborhoods. In Houston, the most diverse city in America, she said its residents’ tastes in Chinese food have become quite discerning.

“American guests, they can find out which one is authentic Chinese restaurant.” Yang continued, “They travel a lot around the world. They know (what) original Chinese food looks like.”

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Ravi Chawda is a diner who loves spicy food. He has never been to China but knows the difference between the so-called American Chinese food and something more like what he would get in China.

“I’ve done a lot of business with the Chinese, so I’ve been to some pretty authentic places. This is by far one of the most authentic,” Chawda said.

Yang said one key ingredient in her restaurant is fresh peppercorns from her hometown of Chongqing, China near Sichuan, a province known for its spicy dishes. The peppercorns are shipped overnight to Houston and create a flavor called “mala” in Mandarin meaning numbing, tingly, and spicy.

The hometown flavors are also drawing loyal Chinese guests, such as Yan Xiang Yu, who attended university in Chengdu, a city in Sichuan.

Scientists, Chef, Yunan Yang
Some of the popular dishes at the Pepper Twins restaurant, clockwise from the upper left: Golden Eggplant (top), Spicy Persian Cucumber (right), Crystal Pudding (left). VOA

“I think the biggest highlight is they can really deliver well the ‘ma’ (numbing/tingling) feeling. The peppercorns are very flavorful,” said Yu who would eat at Pepper Twins when he craves the “mala” feeling in his mouth.

Yang started her first restaurant four years ago, since then, she’s expanded to six locations throughout Houston.

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Not only does Yang have a successful restaurant business, she also now has two children who inspired the logo for Pepper Twins. (VOA)

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Kenyan Chef Maliha Mohammed Breaks Guinness World Record by Cooking for 75 Hours Non-stop

36-year-old Maliha had prepared a list of 400 recipes of local and international cuisines for the competition to have her name on the Guinness Book of World Records

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Guinness Book of World records Logo/COURTESY
Guinness Book of World records Logo

By Geoffrey Isaya

Ms. Maliha Mohammed, a Mombasa-based Kenyan chef, has broken the Guinness World Record for the longest time spent cooking.

Chef Maliha cooked for 75 hours non-stop setting the new record on Sunday, August 18 at Kenya Bay Beach Resort in Mombasa.

The longest cooking marathon was 68 hours 30 minutes 01 seconds, and was achieved by Rickey Lumpkin in Los Angeles, USA, in 2018.

36-year-old Maliha had prepared a list of 400 recipes of local and international cuisines for the competition to have her name on the Guinness Book of World Records.

Ms. Maliha Mohammed, a Mombasa-based Kenyan chef.
Ms. Maliha Mohammed, a Mombasa-based Kenyan chef.

The food she prepared will be offered to charity homes and orphanages as part of her initiative to raise awareness and to feed the less fortunate in Mombasa.

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In her first trial in May this year, the mother of two cooked 100 recipes in 36-hour non-stop.

Later in July, Chef Maliha cooked 200 meals for 54 hours before going for the final competition.