Eleanor Hoh is a lovely woman to meet, chat with, and the best of all cook with. Eleanor created her own way of cooking, teaching all of us that it’s best to follow our own instincts and use our own taste palates instead of following directions like a robot. On her website, Wok Star, she offers all the information, kits, classes, and health benefits that cooking like a Wok Star brings.
We met with Wok Star’s cooking teacher at Iron Side where she teaches her classes and does small tasteful demonstrations. Here’s our convo.
WFK: Let’s start from the beginning. What make you start cooking in the first place?
Eleanor: I learned from my mom at a very young age. It was very strange because she never used recipes, and she never measured anything. It was not until boarding school that I realized how much I missed her cooking. I used to follow her around during holidays, trying to learn to cook from her. I discovered that was the best way to learn to cook because it forced me to used my sense of taste and smell instead of following instructions from a book.
How did you end up in Florida? What made you start teaching people how to cook?
I grew up in Hong Kong until I was a teenager, but I was born in China, Then I went to boarding school in England. After that, I came to America to Key West to join my sister who had a retail store where she did hand painting on clothing and ceramics. She decided to move to Santa Monica and I had just gotten married to Ralph, so I decided to stay in Key West for a while. I had to figure out what to do for a living. All my friends kept saying “You are such a good cook. Why don’t you teach us how to cook?” And, I thought, why not? That’s how it started. I had a cooking school in Key West.
Did you implement your “No Recipe” recipe back then?
No, in the old days it was very different. I used to do recipes, but I found out when I left Key West that people relied so much on the recipes that they never experimented outside of the instructions. That’s why I developed my NO Recipe technique.
For those who don’t know, explain the technique for us…
My “No Recipe” technique means using only a visual road map – using fresh ingredients with 4 seasonings to make a delicious one-dish meal.
What’s your favorite thing to cook?
I don’t have any favorites, but what I love is going to the fridge and making something out of nothing. I love that challenge, and that’s what I’m trying to teach people. If you find a chayote, a jicama, and lettuce, you have to experiment, not rely on a recipe. You don’t need recipes to cook. I also teach how to cook one-meal dishes for weeknights. I focus on cooking for busy lifestyles.
Where can we find these classes?
I teach twice a month. Once at Pepe Calderin’s show room inside Miami Iron Side every last Saturday of the month. I’m also teaching at a school called “Cooking with Kids” in Miami Shores. That one is the second Wednesday of every month.
What do you cook for your husband?
Actually it’s very easy, he loves everything. It’s so easy to cook for him!
What can we call your cuisine style?
I don’t call it anything. I don’t ever use the name Chinese because it has a bad association. I like to call it just “home style cooking with an asian flare.” Using just fresh ingredients and 4 seasonings – that’s it!
Where do you find these fresh vegetables?
I like to go to Lorenzo’s in North Miami Beach, and also the Chinese supermarkets like “P.K Oriental” on 163rd street.
What’s your take on vegetarians?
It’s not my place to say anything about the topic of “vegetarians.” It’s a personal choice. Many do not know how to balance their protein & carb intake and end up with serious health issues.
What has been the most rewarding thing so far about your teaching?
What’s most rewarding for me is hearing how Wok Stars use their woks for cooking ethnic dishes. So I started exploring Hispanic dishes in a wok. Associated Press commissioned me to write an article and it got picked up on many news sites worldwide, so I was thrilled. Then Miami Herald did a HUGE feature story on this topic. “Wok this way “- Food – MiamiHerald.com
Another rewarding part of what I do is hearing positive feedback about how cooking and eating the NO Recipe approach has helped people lose weight, or how it’s made dinner so easy to put out.