Ken Hom Library

  • Ken Hom Library

  • Ken Hom Library

    The Ken Hom Library is the book collection and archive of renowned chef, author, and television presenter Ken Hom. The core of the library is the book collection that Ken used throughout his career, with an emphasis on Asian cookery, including Chinese, Korean, Thai and Japanese. The Ken Hom Library is located in the Special Collections Reading Room of Headington Library, Oxford Brookes University.

  • On 12 September 2007 Oxford Brookes University awarded Ken Hom an honorary doctorate in recognition of his ‘outstanding success within the international food world’. On that occasion, Donald Sloan, the head of the Oxford School of Hospitality Management, talked to Ken about his life, and his work, and discovered that he was looking for a new home for his library. Donald offered Oxford Brookes, and in particular, our purpose built Special Collections Room, with its carefully controlled temperature and humidity levels.

    As well as Ken Hom's personal library of books, the Ken Hom Library also includes memorabilia to do with his television shows and consulting work, including menus, invitations, photographs and artefacts. There are examples of the retail lines he was involved with, for example, the golden wok that was awarded to Ken Hom on the occasion of his 1,000,000th sale of Ken Hom Woks. There are also awards, and presentational items, like a souvenir chef's apron from Denny's of Soho. Many of the television shows presented by Ken Hom are available as well, on video, as part of the collection.

  • Ken Hom was born in Tucson, Arizona, in 1949, but was brought up in Chicago, Illinois by his mother, after his father died when he was a baby. It was a hard life, and meant that Ken had to take his first job in his Uncle's restaurant at the age of eleven. It was where he first learned to cook, and he remembers it as a formative experience: "I did everything and it became my culinary education." In those days, he earned the equivalent of 30p an hour.

    Later, he went on to study History of Art and French History in California, and while there, to supplement his scholarship, he began to teach cookery lessons, Italian pasta dishes to begin with, in a congressman's wife's kitchen. But he soon returned to his first love, Chinese cuisine, and began teaching that instead to general acclaim. In 1977, after being recommended to them, he joined San Fransisco's new California Culinary Academy as an instructor.

    His big break came in 1982. Madhur Jaffrey had just finished an extremely successful series on Indian cooking, and the BBC was keen to follow it up with a series on Chinese cooking. Madhur had seen Ken giving lessons in California and recommended him. The series, Ken Hom's Chinese Cookery, was an instant success, and one of the most successful cookery series the BBC has ever produced. The book that accompanied the series has sold over 1.2 million copies, and is still in print today.

    Other television series followed it, and Ken has also written over a dozen cookbooks, exploring other types of Oriental cookery, including Vietnamese, Malaysian, Cambodian and Thai. As well as being a leading authority on Chinese cookery, Ken has also cooked and consulted in many restaurants and hotels worldwide, and pupils of his have opened major restaurants around the world. Ken has also cooked for over thirty Heads of State.