ritakahn is the
creator & host of urban Cravings
a travel documentary series
Urban Cravings immerses you in the world of slow travel. Each season delves into the urban landscapes of a single country, always using food as a gateway to hidden cultural treasure and sustainable innovations.
Question & Answer
What’s your name?
I was born with the name 可涵 [pronounced kě hán]. Until we immigrated to New Zealand when I was 9; when my parents gave me - Rita. Apparently “Foreigners”; as we say in Mandarin referring to any white person, have trouble pronouncing the real foreigner’s names. So we make it easier by simply using an English name. Thus Rita was chosen for me. However, for a few freewheeling and Alphabet learning months; before we left for NZ, my 20 something year old English teacher thought Michelle was a suitable name. So my first English name was Michelle.....thank, whatever up there, we didn't keep it.
So then I was just plain Rita from 9 years old to about 16 when I decided that I like my brith name better and added Kahn to Rita as both my first names. No one called me that till I reinvented or revisited myself when I moved to Sydney at 24. You can always tell the length of my friendships by what they call me.
Nowadays it’s either just Kahn or RitaKahn, but never Rita.
Where are you from?
How did you become interested in food?
I can never truly say where I’m from. We’d have sit over some wine for that. So instead I’ll just say exactly where I happen to hold keys to right at that moment. I have been known to say I’m German in a fleeting moment with the feeling of inclusion with the crew I was travelling with. Only to re-think my answer moments later after my selfinflicted shock.
But seriously, I grew up equally in Taiwan and New Zealand. My Taiwanese knowledge is so weak compared to my older brother’s that I never can say I fully belong to the Taiwanese culture. I’ve orientated and moulded myself towards the New Zealand culture for so long that I feel more Kiwi but there is an undeniable lack of affliation there too. And then there are my friends in Australia who are almost like family to me, who sees me as an Aussie more than I see myself as one, and where I’ve also lived equal amount of time in Taiwan and New Zealand. So in the end, I am equally a foreigner at these three places as I am a daughter of the land. Which makes me an eternal outsider.
I think being born in Asia, now when I say Asia, I do mean the whole continent. We are all just born food obsessed or at least groomed to be. It’s in our DNA. The only other body of people that can rival ‘Asians’ are the Italians and for some reason, I married one. I remember once we drove from Milan to Berlin after Christmas with two Italians in the car. We talked about food for 13 hours – nonstop. So for me the love of food was inherently there, but the real understanding of food came when I did my 6-month kitchen Stagier in a snooty golf course on Lake Geneva. I was studying Hotel Management at this Hogwarz-esque looking school further down on the lake. And as part of our first year training, we had to be placed in the food and beverage industry for 6 months. Despite having to cook for our fellow students 6 months prior and having to study the mother-of-all cook books from our very old French head chef. It was really when I got into a professional kitchen that served a classic French Bistro menu for lunch and equally classic French dinner menu for dinner (not to mention the preparation of the thousands of Chocolate Truffle ordered from the club members for Christmas) that I really became interested in food.
I didn’t walk away from all this being able to prepare a classic whatever sauce you throw at me. I was merely the kitchenhand by day and Entremetier by night. But I did walk away with an impeccable ability so have a neat and precise station. With my mis-en-plus all in the correct order, ready for a busy dinner service. And I know the order of preparation was as important as making sure you had the right amount of seasoning. But what I really wanted to know was how to create the taste of my mother.