Martin Yan Just Won This Prestigious James Beard Award

PBS fans will be delighted to learn that a celebrated pioneer of Chinese cooking just received one of the culinary world's greatest honors. The James Beard Foundation — a nonprofit culinary arts organization named for the legendary cookbook author — recently announced the 2022 recipient of its prestigious annual Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The organization's Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given to "a person in the industry whose lifetime body of work has had a positive and long-lasting impact on the way we eat, cook, and think about food in America," has previously been bestowed to culinary giants like Jessica B. Harris, Wolfgang Puck, Alice Waters, Jacques Pépin, and Leah Chase (via JBF).

The foundation, which has a mission "to celebrate, support, and elevate the people behind America's food culture," announced that the 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient is celebrated chef, television personality, and cookbook author Martin Yan

Yan is best known for his pioneering cooking show, "Yan Can Cook." Yan's programs ran for 43 years on PBS, broadcasting over 2,000 episodes in more than 50 countries. The culinary icon, who was previously awarded three Beard Foundation awards for his television work, has also penned multiple cookbooks over the course of his career, including "The Yan Can Cook Book," "Quick and Easy," and "Martin Yan's Chinatown Cooking."

Yan first learned to cook at his family's restaurant

The beloved host, who was born in Guangzhou, China, credits his mother — who ran the kitchen of his family's restaurant — for inspiring his love of cooking (via Yan Can Cook). The self-described "second generation culinarian" received formal restaurant training in Hong Kong before immigrating to Canada and embarking on his culinary career. Since then, Yan has used his platform to further his lifelong mission of promoting Chinese cuisine to the masses.

While Yan has inspired countless food lovers with his long-running PBS program and cookbooks, the master chef didn't originally set out to become a TV star (via SFGate). Yan hesitantly began his on-screen career in 1978, when he was tasked with filming a cooking demo on a local Canadian news program to promote his friend's Chinese restaurant.

Despite a shaky first TV appearance as a result of his nerves, an executive editor saw potential in Yan as a host and invited him back to film a recurring segment. That local segment soon evolved into the "Yan Can Cook" program, which debuted on Canadian television in 1978 before coming to the United States in 1982.

Yan will be honored at the 2022 James Beard Foundation Awards

Building off of his success in television, Yan went on to open a number of San Francisco-area restaurants, including M.Y. China, Yan Can Asian Bistro, and SensAsian (via US Foods). Yan recently launched his first frozen food line, M.Y. Asia Kitchen, which the chef explained to Mashed enables fans to enjoy his take on General Tso's Chicken at home.

Now, Yan's decades of culinary trailblazing will be honored with one of the food world's greatest honors. The chef will officially receive the James Beard Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award in June at the organization's annual awards ceremony.

"For four decades, the 'Yan Can Cook' show has allowed me to journey to incredible places and meet with unforgettable people all around the world. My heart is more than full in accepting this special award from the James Beard Foundation," said Yan in a press release. "This is the apex of our profession, and for me, it validates my entire career. This is the absolute experience of my lifetime."