Chinese Restaurants

October 29, 2009


Martin Yan & Cheuk

Jun, I was skimming through your blog… Looking for clues to your life. I see you have Maya. I see you travel a lot for work… Was Vietnam for work too? Why did you go back to Malaysia, was it for a better job or was it your wife didn’t like SP?

You write like a philosopher…. My goodness, I didn’t know you were such an intellectual… However your Reismann conjecture totally lost me. I can’t recall 1% of what I learned in engineering, much less solving any conjectures. The only conjecture I recalled was the Aizman (spelling?) Conjecture, which appeared as one of two questions (worth 50% of the Final) of my Computational Methods in Freshmen year. There’s one answer, something like 36, but if you put that recursive equation into the UNIVAC 1108 at that time, it would take 17 hours to run through to get the final answer. So it was to test whether you know what recursion is and for you to work this out in your brain like a human being and not calculating it like a computer.

I was in HK for one week and Tokyo for another week in April, right during Sakura season in Tokyo. I was in HK to work with my distributor of getting Chinese Restaurants into China (digital cinema chain). I am scare shitless releasing my Chinese version (Mandarin/Cantonese) to the Chinese public until I have a DVD manufacturer. The Cantonese version has been showing in the local (Canada) multicultural channel for the last two years for about six complete runs. Although I sold the English version to that conglomerate, and thrown in my Chinese version, they only broadcast the Cantonese version on this Cantonese channel and ignored the English version, which was really my goal – to get to mainstream audience. But I get recognized by Chinese community all the time – an Ottawa Chinese restaurant owner tells me she likes Mauritius best, and on a Cuban beach a Chinese couple from Toronto told me they came here because they saw my Cuban episode. My Dutch father-in-law watches it diligently without understanding the non-English part of it. So one day he called me up and asked me what country speaks French and drives on the left. I said Mauritius. I realized that the episode title was in Chinese and he had no idea where it was taking place. Anyway, its been shown in Singapore by ChannelNews Asia as Channel 12? And also via satellite to 21 countries.

One of my friends recognized my voice when she checked into a Shanghai hotel while turning on the TV. My Argentinean guy’s friend in Manila saw him on TV and called him. I later did four episodes called The Asian Expats featuring Asians in L.A., S.F., Vancouver and Toronto. Kwoi shot the Toronto episode. The rest will done with Singapore crew. Chinese Restaurants been shown on satellite LINK TV in the US for two years and was their favourite and most popular program (they run it constantly). I get a few calls from the States of people I have not heard from in 30 years who recognized my voice (but couldn’t place me until the end credits). I get an e-mail from a Chinese American running some small town bar in Alaska. I got an e-mail from Sao Paolo American who says he gets LINK TV via Internet via New York City and wants to know where the SP restaurant is.

I get a lot of female groupies from Singapore, I don’t know why only Singaporean women. One on her first e-mail asked me how to get to Buenos Aires from Singapore (I told her to fly through Johannesburg). Then her next e-mail she told me she is a poor school teacher and don’t have money to buy winter clothes for B.A. Her third e-mail asked if I would give her my leather jacket that she saw me wearing (that’s the leather jacket I got from Istanbul Grand Bazaar before our trip to the Arctic Circle). What does she want? To smell my jacket? There’s another Singapore woman who wants to know how to make wanton skin like the Senor Chiang from B.A. Then she spent the next two e-mails telling me that Singapore wanton skins are all made from machines and Singaporeans have lost their art of making wanton skins.

Speaking about Japan (I read about your overseas management seminar), I really enjoyed my trip there. I was there for my 40th High School reunion in Yokohama, so I went back to my old school, my old ramen place. I went to Opening Day game of my home team Tokyo Giants. Went to Shibuya cinema. Nostalgic galore, tracing my steps from 40+ years ago. Then came Tokyo where I spent 3 days walking around Roppongi and Omotesando, soaking in Japanese efficiency (like you said in your blog) and their sense of fashion , design in a post-modernist Tokyo (pretty much like Lost in Translation was a treatise in post-modern Tokyo). Ate French food at Roppongi Hills, French pastry in Tokyo Midtown (this from a Japanese who studied pastry in Paris, made his name in France before returning to Japan 20 years afterwards to open his chain there, standard Japanese outdoing the French at their best). I was staying at my favorite hotel, Villa Fontaine at Shiodome, inside the Mitsui Building in the ultra post-modern development complex just east of Shinbashi. Again nostalgic galore, this time, 25 years since I left Tokyo on my second stint as a salaryman in the 80s.

I am working mostly at my non-profit job . You probably seen my web Ok, give me your news. Cheuk


Cheuk Kwan is a respected Chinese-Canadian filmaker I met during my time in Brazil, and we become friends partly because we recognised much of ourselves in each other, as if we led parallel lives.  Cheuk is probably 50-something, grew up speaking many languages in many parts of the world(incl. Singapore & Japan), holds a masters in engineering from a school in the states, and resides in Toronto as head of a mixed-culture household. He had always been a community activist, and when he came into some inheritence money, decided that it was best served taking a filmaking course in NYU and then make a documentary about the chinese diaspora as his legacy to the community.

 There are many things that could go wrong with an amateur production; the filmaker may pander to his self-serving interests and delusions of grandeur, scenes may be “faked” or manufactured with an audience in mind, or quickly degenerate into cliched kitsch.  Cheuk Kwan’s CHINESE RESTAURANTS (a deceptively simple title) however is a subtle, delicately-paced yet penetrating look into the chinese diaspora, and a mature set of films that will become a towering testament to the history of a chinese race, and ultimately help explain the increasingly interacial make-up of humanity.


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