Culinary icon uses opportunity to show off new plant-based pockets
Union Oyster House is the longest continually run restaurant in the country. Set in the cobblestoned section of Faneuil Hall, it’s a time machine into another era, one that valued intricate woodwork and cozy cavernous snugs. The place still holds its own when it comes to food and atmosphere, is popular with tourists and area business people alike, and is a fitting place to honor a chef who is also an industry leader.
Last week, the American Academy of Chefs held a small ceremony at the restaurant to induct Chef Ming Tsai into its Culinary Hall of Fame. Per the academy, “recipients of this honor are trendsetters in the industry and have distinguished themselves in the culinary world.”
Press and peers showed up to shower praise on the guru in a short reception that doubled as a launch event for Tsai’s new product, Ming’s Bings. They’re his modern take on the traditional bing, a “Chinese flatbread that originated in the Ming dynasty.” Tsai’s are plant-based, dairy-free, and gluten-free, and are packaged with eco-friendly materials in Pembroke. They’re also now available at stores including Market Basket and Roche Bros and also at Fenway Park, where the following day I found myself standing in front of the product’s branded cart on Jersey Street.
It was time to dig in. I tried the sausage and pepper as well as the cheeseburger (again, they’re plant-based) versions of these flaky little pockets. The flavors were sensational; I’ve had a lot of plant-based cheeses before, and few have actually melted like the real thing. I was impressed, and even more so since some of the proceeds go to charities like Dana Farber and Family Reach, organizations that support families through cancer that Tsai has been involved with for years.
Back in Faneuil Hall, Tsai accepted his award with his usual casual, approachable demeanor, making jokes and introducing himself to the room. He was in good company; presenting the award was none other than Rico DiFronzo, the executive chef of Union Oyster House and chair of the American Academy of Chefs. A legend himself, DiFronzo recognized Tsai, for whom the organization created a new category this year to honor.
“These individuals are nationally and/or internationally recognized through print and/or live media for their contributions to the profession,” the academy pronouncement said. “They are culinary icons and continue to serve as role models by mentoring and providing support to future culinarians.”