A Day In The Life of Dr. Yong

Lima, Peru
August 1, 2003

Cheuk was a little concern about my military fatigues because of the Shinning Path history in Peru. I remember getting caught with them once even on a transit at the Barbados airport where they were also illegal and had to take them off. It was a good thing that I wasn’t going full commander. So I made a point of changing before we land in Lima.

Cheuk had researched Lima the same time I scoped out Buenos Aires last Christmas. Juan, his driver last December, was waiting for us at the gate when we arrived. Our story subject and owner of San Joy Lao, Luis Yong, is also expecting us. It felt good to have some familiar base when you first arrive.

Yong interview at temple MS
Yong interview at temple MS

Luis sounds like a real showman. Cheuk tells me he is not just an average restaurateur — Luis also wears many multi-facet hats as cultural ambassador, medical doctor, and cooking show host. I’m not surprise that he has this whole show rigged with series of events for me to film him in the milieu. I can see that this last shoot’s gonna be a breeze. All I have to do is turn on my camera and roll for the next week… a great way to finish the tour.

Everyone pitches in on family day at San Joy Lao. Wife Blanca, daughters Vanessa and Veronica man the dinning room while Luis scrutinizes his well-greased army in the kitchen. The kitchen is one fine piece of machinery comparable to Soongs’ in San Fernando and Ling’s in India. I get a kick filming Luis as he throws his weight around in the kitchen. How much of it was hammed up for my filming purposes… I couldn’t tell. Regardless, I was impressed with his big fire wok skills. Not bad for a stomach and intestine specialist. There’s got to be some irony here coming from a guy who also works with food.

On our last night, we are invited for dinner at the Yongs. Luis is next-door neighbour to the Japanese Embassy, the scene of a terrorist siege a few years back. As expected, it was heavily gated with guards.

After filming Luis at the wok and listening to his stories about his mom and dad’s cooking the other day, I was looking forward to an intriguing Chinese-Peruvian fusion tonight. But instead we got treated to more chicharrone in different forms served with dry bread. Kind of like Macdonald’s… it’s the same stuff but in different shape and form… big chich… quarter-pounder chich… I’m glad this will be the last chich for a while to come.

It’s “The Tonight Show” with Luis Yong. I laved him up wireless and asked him to slow down the pace not so I can keep up but I wanted to avoid speeding up the camera like Chevy Chase’s “Latin America Vacation”. But he still managed to dash from one room to the next like he was Johnny Carson… delivering a polish monologue on his life philosophy, Chinese history in Peru and his family’s place in Peruvian society all in one continuous take. Cheuk thinks he makes a good Fellini character. I couldn’t help but double check to see if my camera had a secret teleprompter feature that I wasn’t aware of. Say goodnight, Johnnie.