House Special: New five-part docuseries chronicles the Chinese-Canadian experience through the lens of small-town Chinese restaurants

Award-winning filmmakers Ryan Mah and Danny Berish of Black Rhino Creative take viewers on a delicious, nostalgic, and bittersweet journey across Western Canada with House Special, a five-part docuseries exploring Chinese-Canadian history through small-town Chinese restaurants. Hosted by chef and national best-selling author Jackie Kai Ellisthe TELUS original series premieres November 16, 2022, starting with British Columbia’s Penticton, followed by Vernon, Kelowna, and Alberta’s Red Deer and Grand Prairie.

Over the course of the five episodes, Kai Ellis travels by train to visit each of the five communities on a culinary quest to uncover the dishes at the heart of the Chinese-Canadian story, and the story behind her own Chinese-Canadian heritage. She will meet local historians, restaurant owners, sample staple dishes, and cook recipes inspired by the comfort food of her past.

“Through connecting with hard-working restaurant owners in small Canadian towns, I discover familiar immigrant stories, like ones from my own family,” says Kai Ellis. “And over dishes of sweet and sour pork, I learn about and rediscover my own heritage as a Chinese-Canadian.”

The five-part docu series officially kicks-off on Wednesday, November 16, 2022 with two episodes available on TELUS VOD Optik and online. A new episode will then premiere each week on a Tuesday. The full line-up features:

November 16, 2022
Penticton, BC | Theme: Hard Work
Sweet and Sour Pork and Lemon Chicken. In this first episode, Jackie learns more about the origins of these “westernized” menus. A new wave of Chinese-Canadian chefs are now proud to cook what they love and have traditional food back on the menu. Jackie meets Randy, a local historian to learn about the blatant racism Chinese-Canadians faced with the Asian Exclusion Act, and the Head Tax. Jackie then meets Darcy and Christine of Wild Ginger, a restaurant proudly cooking Asian comfort food like Mongolian beef and Singapore noodles.

November 16, 2022
Vernon, BC | Theme: Food is Love
In Chinese culture we say “I love you” through food. Here, Jackie tries to answer the age old question, how did food come to be synonymous with love in Asian culture? Jackie meets Cynthia and Jessie, two hard working moms who work long hours and sacrifice everything they have to give their kids a better life. On the other side of the spectrum, Jackie meets the owners of Temptasian restaurant, owners who decided to close their restaurant to spend more time with family.

November 22, 2022
Kelowna, BC | Theme: Hungry for Home
When you’re far from home, you miss food. Jackie visits Kelowna to learn about the lengths homesick people will go to eat food that reminds them of home. Jackie makes tofu from scratch with Tun Wong, son of Su Lee Ping, one of the first Chinese immigrants in Kelowna who made a name for herself by making traditional foods for her local community. Jackie discovers Kelowna’s secret Chinese menus and a hidden Chinese supermarket in town. She also meets Shu Han Lin and makes a comfort dish of Pork Fat Rice.

November 29, 2022
Red Deer, AB | Theme: New Traditions
In Red Deer, Jackie explores how different cultures have embraced Chinese cuisine during the holidays and how these new traditions revolve around Asian food. Jackie puts on her cowboy hat as she visits locals to enjoy holiday classic dishes like lemon chicken and Peking duck, with a Jewish family. She learns the origin story of why Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas day. Before she leaves Alberta, she stops at the birthplace of ginger beef – the Silver Inn. Jackie does a cooking demo making an iconic morning after Christmas dish, turkey congee.

December 6, 2022
Grand Prairie, AB | Theme: Happiness, Wealth, Prosperity
Jackie learns about the biggest celebration in the Asian calendar – Lunar New Year. Cream cheese wontons, hair moss soup, and handmade dumplings are on the menu. Jackie goes Ice fishing with Jeremy, to catch fish to create a classic Asian dish, salted fish and chicken fried rice. She learns about the dwindling Asian community and the locals who are fighting to keep traditions like lion dancing alive. Ella settle in as she has her fortune read for the coming year and creates a Lunar New Year classic dish, Nian Gao.

In addition, on November 24, 2022, TELUS is hosting an exclusive creator-chat with Kai Ellis and Mah, where viewers can discuss the series with them via Zoom and Facebook Live.

“During the filming of House Specialwe traveled with Jackie to these amazing communities and met families who were open to sharing their stories, their homes, and their food with us,” says Mah. “It was a very humbling experience to learn how these Chinese immigrants overcame discrimination and made a place for themselves in Canada. They carved out a culinary niche that has become as Canadian as poutine.”

For more information about House Special and how to watch, please visit www.housespecialseries.com.

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