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The Digital Side of Cooking with Ming Tsai

Celebrity chef Ming Tsai discusses his new Seaport restaurant, his new book and shooting 80 complementary videos.

For most, writing a cookbook would be painstaking enough. But Ming Tsai’s latest literary endeavor is being served with a side of video.

Eighty videos to be exact. 

To coincide with the release of his new cookbook, Simply Ming: In Your Kitchen, Ming Tsai, celebrity chef and owner of Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Mass., produced 80 Web videos to correspond with the book’s 80 recipes.

“Before the actual photo shoot [for the book], I decided 'Why don’t I shoot me making the food?'” he said in an interview at Blue Ginger in September.

Tsai looks to innovate with In Your Kitchen. A known chef, Tsai said TV is what got him his celebrity status, but it’s the Web he wants to tackle next. The first two videos corresponding to each chapter are free, but the rest are offered at 99 cents each available on Tsai's website.

“I decided let’s combine the video aspect and try to create a second revenue stream,” he said.

Tsai still counts on his classic style: East-meets-West – “I only know how to cook one way,” he says – but the dishes in his fifth book are simple enough for average cooks to attempt.

Another unique feature of his new book, the fifth by Tsai, are the QR codes embedded onto each recipe's page. Readers can get each recipe's shopping list on their phones with a quick scan.

Tsai takes great care to mention it’s the shopping lists, not the recipes, which are scannable. He says this adds a level of convenience as yet unseen in cookbooks.

“It’s one thing to send the recipe but the recipe is not necessarily the shopping list,” Tsai explains. “You might say ‘2 tablespoons of mixed ginger.’ Well what does that really mean? That means buy a small hand of ginger. The shopping list says a small hand of ginger, and the recipe is 2 tablespoons of ginger.”

Tsai is not only launching into a national book-signing tour upon the release of his latest book, but he’s also preparing to open “Blue Dragon,” at the Fort Point Channel in Boston.

He refers to Blue Dragon, his second restaurant, as an “Asian Gastropub,” offering panko-crusted fish and chips, raw oysters with wasabi mignonette and Asian sloppy joes behind the bar.

“It’s going to take what we do here…but more pubby,” he said. “Hopefully we have the best burger in Boston.”

Tsai sees himself as a businessman, family man, a chef, and, yes, even an international celebrity. But he says his motivation for taking part in all of his endeavors is to teach others how to cook good food.

“My goal is not to sell cookbooks and leave them on a coffee table,” he said, “my goal is to sell cookbooks people actually cook from.”

Simply Ming: In Your Kitchen is available locally at Trident Booksellers, Brookline Booksmith, the Barnes and Noble in the Prudential Center and Chestnut Hill and many other local book shops. You can also purchase the book online.

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