Nov 9, 2023 - Food and Drink

"Kung Food" brings internet-famous Detroit chef to the page

The cover of the cookbook shows Jon posing in front of cooking implements with light coming in through a window behind.

Jon Kung's "Kung Food" book cover. Photos: Courtesy of "Kung Food," with pictures by Johnny Miller, published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Local chef Jon Kung, a TikTok-famous content creator of funny and informative cooking videos, released their first cookbook on Oct. 31.

Driving the news: "Kung Food: Chinese American Recipes from a Third-Culture Kitchen," blends traditions and ingredients with an "ultimate goal of redefining what Chinese American food can be," per the publisher. It's told through "Jon's wit and humility."

  • Recipes range from Faygo orange chicken and jerk chow mein to five-spice rolls with milk tea glaze.

Catch up quick: Kung, 39, was raised in Toronto and Hong Kong. They moved to Southeast Michigan in 2002 before graduating from Eastern Michigan University with a bachelor's and Detroit Mercy with a law degree.

  • The self-taught chef worked in Detroit restaurants including Standby and the now-closed Gold Cash Gold.
  • Kung ran Kung Food Market Studio, a private dining space in Eastern Market, and planned to open their own restaurant. But the pandemic hit during construction.

Between the lines: "Everything was obviously put on hold, and that's when I started making videos of myself cooking food and that took off," says Kung, who now has more than 500,000 subscribers on YouTube and 1.7 million followers on TikTok. "There may be plans in the future to open something, but as of right now I'm just juggling way too much and construction costs are way too high."

  • At first, Kung's videos were geared toward lockdown survival recipes. Then they began making what they'd already been cooking in Detroit, finding the videos resonated as they learned to film.
A photo of what looks like cinnamon rolls, with icing on top. A second photo is a dish of delicious-looking chicken glazed with orange sauce.
Five-spice rolls with milk tea glaze (left) and Faygo orange chicken.

The intrigue: One line in the cookbook starts with "To Jonathon."

  • Kung asked their partner in the acknowledgements on page 281 if he'd "perhaps consider marrying me?"
  • Kung posted a video of Jonathon reading it. His initial responses are completely shocked and joyful — "Shut up!" and "Are you kidding me?"
  • Spoiler alert: Jonathon says yes.
  • "We had been dating for nine years," Kung tells Axios. "So a grand gesture like that seemed like a pretty safe bet on what his answer was."

What's next: As part of the "Kung Food" book tour, Kung will talk at Source Booksellers on Cass Avenue on Dec. 6, 6-7:30pm.


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Detroit stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Detroit.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more