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Taste Tibet – Yan-Kit So Award winner Julie Kleeman on life as a first-time author

On 17th April 2022, as part of the Chinese Write Now festival at London’s China Exchange, Donald Sloan interviewed Yan-Kit So Award Winner Julie Kleeman about life as a first-time author, restaurateur and cultural ambassador.

Since winning the 2019 Yan-Kit So Award, from the Oxford Cultural Collective, Julie and her husband Yeshi Jampa have achieved great success. In addition to publishing Taste Tibet, they opened their first restaurant and were shortlisted for a prestigious BBC Food and Farming Award.


The next call for entries for the Yan-Kit So Award, for those aspiring to write their first book about any aspect of Asian food culture, will be in September 2022. This year’s guest judges will be Romy Gill  MBE, chef, food writer and broadcaster and Bee Wilson, author and journalist. The ‘resident’ judges are Fuchsia Dunlop, food writer; Carol Michaelson, Curator of Chinese Art at the British Museum, Paul Bloomfield, OCC Patron; and Donald Sloan, Chair of OCC.


Julie Kleeman with Betty Yao, Chair of the Yan-Kit So Award

In conversation with Donald Sloan, Julie explored distinctive aspects of Tibetan culinary culture, including its links to the land, its role in the life of nomadic people and how its promotes a ‘mindful’ relationship with animals and the natural environment, reflecting central tenets of Buddhism. She also discussed the impact of winning the Yan-Kit So Award for New Food Writers on Asia, and encouraged others to apply.

The evening was also attended by winner of the 2021 Yan-Kit So Award, Maria Garbutt-Lucero, whose first book will be focused on the food culture of the Philippines, and runner-up, Noby Leong, who is writing about the food of Malaysia.

Guests enjoyed dishes from Taste Tibet, provided and prepared by Chef and OCC Patron Paul Bloomfield.


Betty Yao with 2021 winner and runner-up Maria Garbutt Lucero and Noby Leong


The Yan-Kit So Memorial Award for Food Writers on Asia enables aspiring food writers to fulfil their dreams to research, travel and create original work about any aspect of Asian food.

The award is inspired by the work of Yan-Kit So (1933-2001), one of Britain’s leading authorities on Chinese cuisine.  A passionate promoter of Asian food, her first book The Classic Chinese Cookbook (1984) went on to win prestigious awards such as the André Simon Memorial Award and the Glenfiddich Food and Drink Award.  Her seminal work Classical Food of China (1992) made a major contribution towards the understanding of Chinese regional food culture.

Hosted by Oxford Cultural Collective Trust, the Award is given as a bursary, which is taken from funds raised by a group of volunteers in Yan-Kit’s memory.

The aim of the award is to enable an emerging writer to undertake a research trip to Asia, to support the production of an original piece of writing, intended for publication, which will enhance our understanding and appreciation of Asian food culture.  This original work should be a cookbook or some other form of food focused text, written in English.

The maximum bursary available is £2,500. The sum awarded may vary dependent on the scale of the winning project. The applicant must currently reside in the UK and must not have already published a cookery book.  The Award is offered every two years, the next in 2023.


In advance of the event at China Exchange on 17th April, Donald Sloan talked online with Julie Kleeman and Yeshi Jampa about all their recent success.


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