Iconic WGBH Cooking Show Host the Focus of Research by Prof. Dana PolanJoyce_Chen_Cooks_Logo

As an early pioneer in cooking shows, WGBH produced groundbreaking series such as Julia Child’s the French Chef and Joyce Chen Cooks. As a result, the WGBH Media Library and Archives is a treasure trove of classic culinary television footage and the first stop for scholars studying the cooking show genre. Dana Polan, a professor of Cinema Studies at New York University has returned to the Archives to study the work of an iconic WGBH host and once again, the footage in the Archives is at the center of his research.

Previously Polan visited the WGBH archives while researching his book Julia Child’s The French Chef (Duke University, 2011). This time around, he’s studying another famous female chef, Joyce Chen, who also used the WGBH airwaves to teach the public how to cook ethnic dishes in their own kitchens.  Joyce Chen, emigrated to America during the Chinese Revolution. After becoming a successful cookbook author and Cambridge restaurateur, she hosted Joyce Chen cooks on WGBH from 1966 to 1967. Polan’s latest work focuses on Joyce Chen within the context of the Chjnese emigré culture and its attempts to craft a version of Chinese cuisine that would appeal to urban professionals in the U.S.

Currently, eleven of the episodes Polan used in his research have been digitized and are available online to the public. These include Joyce Chen Cooks Peking Ravioli and Joyce Chen Cooks for Fussy Eaters. The vintage footage of these episodes allowed Polan to study the nuances of Chen’s personality and the techniques that made her a trailblazer in the history of television cooking.

Recently, Professor Polan presented his work at NYU’s 2014 Feast & Famine seminar series hosted by NYU’s Food Studies program. Additionally, he is working on a critical essay about Joyce Chen that will be published soon on Open Vault.

Throughout his research, Professor Polan, took extensive notes while viewing each episode. The summaries, program logs, and select descriptive metadata he provided to the Archives have made the series content much more accessible and discoverable by other researchers and scholars.

As a public media station, WGBH’s Media Library and Archive serves as a free resource to researchers and scholars as well as the general public. The Archives contain more than 500,000 audio, video, and related assets from WGBH’s more than 60 years of broadcasting

To search the digital collection of almost 4,000 video, audio, and related materials, click here. If you have inquiries about other assets in our collection, contact us at archives_requests [at] wgbh [dot] org, and consider a visit to the archives.

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