Chef Kathy Fang never set out to star in a reality TV show, let alone one centered around the intricacies of running her family’s popular restaurants House of Nanking and Fang. If anything, she says, she was a fan of early food TV shows, made in the “stand and stir” format of Giada at Home with chef Giada De Laurentiis, for instance. But when she pitched a show like that to TV producers, they told her that wasn’t the hot format anymore. People wanted to watch cooking competitions. So Fang wound up doing the circuit, becoming a two-time Chopped winner, along with making a number of appearances on Beat Bobby Flay, Guy’s Grocery Games, and Alex vs. America. In between, producers approached her about doing other reality shows, but nothing panned out.
Then a producer reached out about a show centered around the Fang family dynamic. She was still cynical about the possibility of a show about her family making its way to television, but eventually, the idea evolved into a two-minute sizzle reel, then a pilot shoot, before finally getting greenlit for a six episode-run for Food Network. “You know how when people say if you’re looking for love, you’re not going to find it, it’s when you do not expect it?” Fang says. “I almost feel like this happened that way. I just wasn’t actively really trying to pursue this. I never thought, ‘reality series.’ I didn’t think my life would be interesting enough for it.”
The show focuses on the Fang restaurants, but also on Kathy’s relationship with the family patriarch, chef Peter Fang. It’s about how they balance the difficulties of family, Chinese culture, and being business partners, and growing the business, she shares. Kathy says being a 50/50 partner in the restaurants with her dad a “very delicate dance” of working through decisions and not aggressively pushing her way on things when her father may not agree. “You’ll learn about some of the dishes that we make and the thought processes behind it,” she says, “But more importantly, you’re really going to see the relationship between my dad and I, and the push and pull between this old school versus new school ideal.”
Fang says it was a surprise to her that her father took to filming quite easily. The filming took place in early summer 2022, five days a week, for six weeks. Fang said she didn’t want to worry her dad about the schedule and resisted briefing him too much on what would happen during the shoots. But the team loved working with him. “The producers were like, ‘Oh my god, your dad’s the best. He knows how to ham it up. He just gets it,’” Fang says, laughing.
The show also brings to light some of the family’s ambitions. It’s ultimately promo for the restaurants and the city at large, and lays the groundwork for the potential launch of a lifestyle brand under the Fang family name. But there are also other themes at work, Kathy says. “I realized that the show can serve a different purpose, and that purpose is really sharing the American Dream story,,” she says. “So many of us are so similar, but our stories are not quite shared on that level [of network TV] because it doesn’t sound as impressive as Mark Zuckerberg or the people on Housewives or Bling Empire — but that’s just not most of us.”
Fang recognizes the possibility the show might not do well,, but to her, it’s a positive thing it was made in the first place. For her, it’s a way of showing her gratitude for her parents and what they did to raise her. But for the Fang family at large, it’s also a way of preserving a piece of family history for generations to come. And for the audience, she hopes the show is a story that other families can relate to. “We hope that not only Asian people can relate to it, but people from all types of cultural backgrounds, because so many of us are immigrants, either first or second generation,” Fang says. “And their parents created a level of success — and that story is worthwhile and something that can be shared on a national level for people to relate to and want to watch and feel like it’s worthy enough.”
Chef Dynasty: House of Fang premieres Tuesday, December 27th at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Food Network and streaming on Discovery+.