Local restaurant Yen Ching Express was visited by the Food Network on Aug. 27 to take part in renovations for a new show titled “Restaurant Redemption.”
Yen Ching Express, located at 1514 W. Market St., was first approached by the Food Network from a phone call to Manager John Bian.
“The craziest thing was how we even got the gig,” Bian said. “I didn’t contact them or anything. They cold called my store sometime during the afternoon. They asked if I was interested in a television show and I kind of hung up on them because I thought it was a joke.”
The Food Network called back a few hours later and asked Bian again if he would like to be on a television show. Bian agreed to a Skype interview with the network on Aug. 20, then the 20 person crew showed up at his restaurant on Aug. 27.
A few ISU students were pulled to be a part of the Food Network crew as well to help in the process.
The initial shooting for “Restaurant Redemption” began on Aug. 29. The Food Network had just finished filming in Iowa City and Kansas City on a tour from the west of the country to the east.
Bian and his family were not allowed to see the inside of the restaurant until the renovations had been finalized.
“The director kept telling me that he was going to take us on this journey,” Bian said.
“The journey was how the restaurant dynamic is going to change and how I was going to take over the store and kind of let my parents finally retire.”
The journey was to allow the store to cater to a wider audience. The Food Network made changes not only to the physical makeup inside of the restaurant, but they made slight changes to the menu as well.
The whole project was to be completed with a $10,000 budget.
The new menu changes were more non-traditional, but still kept the Chinese essence.
One of the new sandwiches offered is an orange beef sandwich topped with Chinese coleslaw and spiced with jalapeños on a sweet bun, Bian said.
The celebrity chef who assisted on the project was Ching He Huang.
Inside of the restaurant, the Food Network added more seating, furniture, wall décor and they fixed the cooling system at Yen Ching Express.
The restaurant was also given a new paint job with brighter colors than before.
After the few short days of renovating, the grand re-opening of Yen Ching Express was on Aug. 31. The reception of the new layout and food was widely accepted.
“Business has been doing better. We would really like to expand and I think this show and all the attention it has got is going to help us do it,” Bian said.
The episode of “Restaurant Redemption” of Yen Ching Express will air later this fall on the Food Network.