Chew Han Tah wins GZDoc’s Best Pitch Award for his dream to document ‘The Taste of Life with Martin Yan’

Yesterday, we talked to Lara Ariffin (click here to read our fascinating interview with her!), who won the GZDoc’s Best Pitch Award for her wildlife documentary Wild Wild East. Now it’s time to talk another Malaysian who has also won the award – Chew Han Tah! If you’re familiar with the culinary legend, Martin Yan, you have Chew Han Tah to thank for the show based in Vietnam and Malaysia.

Martin Yan himself is a legendary chef, first rising to prominence back in 1978 with a daily TV Chinese cooking show: the now classic Yan Can Cook. He combines  his culinary prowess with his warm personality, with an almost therapeutic aura as you see him walk through deboning a chicken or slicing some vegetables and spices. You come for his sense of humour, but stay for the amazing food he makes.

Over the past few years, Martin Yan has pushed Asian culinary television to greater heights with ‘Taste of Vietnam’ and ‘Taste of Malaysia’ –  – as he not only taste new dishes, but immerse himself in so many locations and cultures as he dares himself to try new things. One of the person responsible for this binge-worthy series is director Chew Han Tah.

Chew Li Pahn
Chew Li Pahn

Chew Han Tah started out his career as a cameraman for TV3 back in the 80s and has been treading across many grounds of filmography and documentary-making since then. He has made documentaries for Al-Jazeera (titled Swimming With Dragons), 8TV, NTV7, TV9 and even breaking into Vietnamese TV, HTV2 Vietnam. Taste of Malaysia with Martin Yan (52 eps) Directed by him in 2014-15 broadcasted over Malaysia TV station (NTV7,8TV ,TV9) and hTV2 Vietnam has recently won Best Entertainment Program and Media’s Choice Best TV Program in Golden Awards 2017.

Taste of Life is also expertly helmed by the likes of Chew Li Pahn who is also Chew Han Tah’s protege. He’s stated, “During those years since I was 13 years, I was learning photography, Producing and Directing from Han Tah during the documentary shoot for “Black Gold ” documentary for Discovery Asia, “Swimming with Dragons” for Al-jazeera England under EDN’s “Crossing Borders” projects. Chew Li Pahn is only 19 and has a bright future ahead of him in film-making and creative production.

Today, we’ll get to know Chew Han Tah a bit more – his experiences working with the exuberant Martin Yan, and his intriguing career as a documentary filmmaker!

Congratulations on winning the GZDoc’s Best Pitch Award! How do you feel about winning? Tell us a little bit about your journey from the making of the film to the award night.

Firstly, we would like to thank FINAS, MyDocs and Crossing Borders for the opportunity. The time spent researching our documentary project was well worth it and learning from the

Chew Han Tah (Source: Chew Han Tah's Facebook)
Chew Han Tah (Source: Chew Han Tah’s Facebook)

Crossing Borders workshops helped us a lot, especially when it came to gaining valuable knowledge in the art of pitching that led us to winning the award. We certainly look forward to the GZDoc event!

You’ve been working with Taste of Life for quiet a long time now ever since Taste of Life Vietnam and recently Taste of Life – Malaysia. How did you first get involved with the programme? Were you a huge fan of cooking shows before?

Actually the 13 years working experience with Martin was for the Taste of Vietnam with Martin Yan TV series and Taste of Malaysia with Martin Yan TV series. We think it should be a documentary about this wonderful man who has the longest-running TV cooking show in the world, and that’s why Taste of Life with Martin Yan idea just came into our mind. I myself also big fan for cooking show and especially cooking shows like Martin Yan’s cooking show where cooking is not only about sharing but entertaining as well.

From the programme itself, Martin Yan does a lot of exciting and daring things. Tell us some memorable moments of having to film those scenes! Any single moment you feel like you’ll remember forever? Was Martin cooperative in all of them?

We have lots of fun and unforgettable moments while travelling and shooting his show! He is quite adventurous and very happy to try something he’s never done before like scuba diving, paramotoring, ATV off road. In fact, he nearly got into an accident while paramotoring during one of our shoots.

For me, one of my most memorable moments is when we were filming him doing a demo of deboning a chicken in 18 seconds and accidentally sliced his hand. He didn’t stop and continued until the very end. His professionalism and passion for cooking is something I truly respect. He’s such an easy and pleasant individual to work with.

How best would you describe the local documentary filmmaking scene? Do you think it’s changed significantly throughout your years as a filmmaker?

Definitely. With the involvement and support from MyDocs and FINAS, there has been a surge in local documentary filmmakers in Malaysia. Moving forward, it would certainly help if we got the local broadcasters support as well. When we pitch our projects on an international platform, would be nice to say that we’ve been partly funded by our local broadcasters as it makes international investors more confident to fund our projects seeing as we have commitment from our own country as well.

In all the locations you’ve visited and documented, where would you go and experience again? Is there anywhere you would want to go that you haven’t been?

Cairo in Egypt was full of mystery and there are lots of untold stories, would definitely go back there someday!

Martin Yan has made a lot of food throughout the years. Do you get to taste any of them? And if so, what’s the most delicious one?

Of course! We sneak in a bite here and there haha. We tend to indulge after the shoot because most of the time, the food is about 70-80% cooked so that it’ll look good on camera.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far from working with Martin Yan?

He always says “If you like what you do, you will never work a day of your life” which certainly rings true for many people who are passionate about their jobs as he is.

Tell us about your journey on Crossing Borders and getting support from an association like MyDocs.

I was very lucky to be selected for Crossing Borders, which has been such a good experience. Witnessing international projects being developed and the improvements we’ve made after every workshop has been so valuable. We hope to continue receiving support from FINAS and MyDocs in the long run.

Featured image source is of Chew Han Tah, Lara Ariffin, and Chew Li Panhn. If you’re a huge fan of documentaries and you want to see great ideas being pitched along with insightful discussions, register your attendance for Crossing Borders International Documentary Pitch Open Day by clicking on this link.

Day/Date: Saturday, 9 December 2017
Time: 9am – 3pm (Registration begins at 8.30am)
Venue: Level 2, QLIQ Hotel (2 Jalan PJU 8/8A, Damansara Perdana, 47820 Petaling Jaya)
Admission: Free (Inclusive of tea break)


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