Fire Up The Wok Challenge Fills Times Square with Aromas of Kung Pao Chicken & Gong Music

16 Feb 2015 | 09:50

by Alissa Fleck Last night, New Tang Dynasty TV took to Times Square to celebrate their first annual Fire Up The Wok Challenge, part of a two-day spread of live broadcast Chinese culinary events. For years, NTD TV has been bringing together celebrity chefs from around the world to test their chops against one another in similar grueling culinary competition. According to NTD TV, the competitions aim to "facilitate a culinary cultural exchange between the East and the West." Five Western celebrity chefs -- including Julieta Ballesteros, New York's "best" Mexican chef, and Maneet Chauhan, the judge for Food Network's "Chopped" -- convened to try their hand at creating an authentic rendition of Kung Pao chicken, one of the most difficult dishes to "get right" according to the challenge's host. Many of the challengers conceded to a lack of expertise with the wok, and Chinese cooking in general. The Fire Up The Wok challenge was judged by big names in the food business, such as restauranteur David Burke and Susie Fogelson of the Food Network. Tourists in the square and workers from nearby businesses wandered over to check out the action, and constituted the bulk of viewers. Boyee Wong had a coveted front-row spot at the event. Vacationing in New York, Wong said she was walking by the festivities earlier in the day when she was drawn in by the energy and excitement. "I've never heard of [NTD TV]," said Wong. "But I recognized the Food Network stars." The Fire Up The Wok challenge was the second-to-last in a day's worth of events featuring big names in the business. ( "I've been here awhile," said Wong, acknowledging it was more fun than she'd anticipated. The winner of the challenge, Antoine Camin, from Paris, went home with a prize kitchen knife crafted by a Chinese master swords-maker. Camin has over 16 years of experience in the culinary realm, with a special devotion to seafood. A portion of the money raised from the competitions will go toward the James Beard Foundation's NTD Chinese Culinary Scholarship for the Underprivileged.