SAN FRANCISCO — A local chef with roots in San Francisco’s Chinatown is enjoying a higher profile these days thanks to a her starring turn in a new reality show.
The lunch rush is on and the restaurant is buzzing. If you blink, you might miss Kathy Fang zipping through the kitchen and dining room at her restaurant Fang.
For some customers, it might come as a surprise to see San Francisco’s newest celebrity chef in the middle of the grind after her new reality show “Chef Dynasty: House of Fang” recently wrapped up its first season on the Food Network.
“People come in now, say ‘Oh my gosh! You are here! You actually work here.’ Yes, I am,” said Fang with a smile.
That work ethic instilled by her parents, especially her father Peter Fang, who was the owner of the House of Nanking in Chinatown for 34 years. In fact, on any given day, visitors will likely bump into Peter at either restaurant.
“He still works seven days a week,” his daughter explained.
The six-episode reality show captured the universal themes of a father-daughter relationship as they push and pull their way through the new school and old school ways of running a successful restaurant.
“I love seeing people relate to it,” said Kathy Fang. “I got letters from people saying, ‘It brought tears to my eyes.'”
Peter Fang quietly became the star of the show.
“My dad loves it. One, because business is booming, and of course he loves that,” Fang said. “And two, my dad sees people come in and they want to take pictures with him. They want him to order for them. They walk-in and they are like, ‘Peter! Peter!'”
But outside the new found celebrity from “House of Fang,” the first season shattered barriers in the food reality show world by featuring the first all Asian-American cast on the Food Network. And while the exposure was great for Kathy Fang, it also came with a heavy weight on her shoulders.
“There is definitely a lot of pressure of us being the first; of us being the face of Asian-Americans. And I wanted to make sure I represented my culture in the best possible light,” Fang said.
The show also giving Kathy Fang a platform as the next face of Chinese cuisine, already opening doors with magazines spreads and network television appearances on “Good Morning America” and “Today.”
“I do feel like I am stepping into that role, of being the next generation of Chinese food,” said Fang. “The Martin Yans and Ming Tsais opened the door, but I want to move the food forward.I am bringing in a lot of books on Chinese food and Chinese history, because if I am going to be out there to spread the gospel, I want to do our history justice.”
But as Kathy watched each episode unfold, she says she began to realize the show was about more than just her brand.
“I had an epiphany,” said Fang. “If this show does well, this is a message to Food Network and other networks that America wants to watch more shows with diverse backgrounds. Chef Dynasty can spawn off, and after House of Fang, it can be the House of Rodriguez, it can be House of Nakamura.”
But the biggest gift the show gave her family was the documenting of her family legacy.
“My dad feels everything he has done in the last 34 years, this [show] is culmination of everything, because now there is a recorded history. There is a hard copy of it,” said an emotional Fang. “Three or four generations down can look up and say, ‘Wow my great grandfather and Lily created this legacy business that was super successful and made it on national television.'”
“This is honestly the best gift. I can say, look dad we have record, when you fully retire you can look at back at what you created,” Fang added. “It almost makes me want to tear.”
While the show recently finished airing on the Food Network, episodes can still be watched on demand. So far there is no word yet whether “House of Fang” will be picked up for a second season.