Who's Who Top Educators

Shirley Shuliang Cheng, MS

Title: Chef and Retired Professor
Company: The Culinary Institute of America
Location: Hyde Park, New York, United States

Shirley Shuliang Cheng, Chef and Retired Professor at The Culinary Institute of America, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Educators for dedication, achievements, and leadership in culinary education.

An accomplished and esteemed figure in the field of Culinary Arts, Chef Cheng taught as a professor at the World’s premier culinary college, The Culinary Institute of America, from 1990 to 2022. She specialized in Asian cuisines including Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Indian cuisine. She also focused on the four major Chinese regional styles of cuisine from Sichuan, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing. Chef Cheng excelled at developing a rich curriculum diving into the intricacies of different seasonings and cooking methods that distinguish each respective culinary culture.

Chef Cheng began her career at the Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine, China where she graduated with honors and stayed on as a faculty member, teaching from 1979 to 1988. During that period, she studied English literature at night, and earned a college diploma in the subject. She then continued her professional career after being awarded a scholarship to complete her Master of Science degree in 1990 from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, United States.

After graduating, Chef Cheng was admitted to the faculty of the Culinary Institute of America, which at that time involved an operations test. Candidates for the position were required to make a soup, appetizer, and main course for five people, and deliver a lecture in front of a panel of judges. She also served as the Asian cuisine judge for Certified Master Chef Exams of the ACF (American Culinary Federation) of the United States between 1994 and 1998.

After teaching at the Culinary Institute of America for fifteen years, Chef Cheng took a sabbatical leave and returned to China to complete a research project on “China’s Four Major Cuisines,” which include dishes from the Sichuan, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Beijing culinary regions. She later returned to America to deliver her findings, which were well received. Another highlight of Chef Cheng’s career was attending “The Worlds of Flavor International Conference and Festival” held by the Culinary Institute of America, where she delivered a lecture on the four major Chinese cuisines.

In addition to studying cuisine in broad strokes, Chef Cheng has delved into the very components of flavor itself to determine the best culinary practice. Case in point, she made two additional trips to China in the summer of 2009 to study the use of Sichuan Hanyuan green and red peppercorns in Sichuan cuisine, interviewing many local chefs, historians, restaurateurs, and experts from the region. She also inspected the agricultural conditions under which the peppercorns were grown. As always, she brought these findings with her to the United States, publishing “The Production of Sichuan Peppercorns and the Use in Sichuan Cuisine: An Evaluation of American Consumers’ Taste Perception” in 2010, at the annual Research Chef Association Conference.

A cause that is near and dear to Chef Cheng’s heart is the reduction of salt and sodium found in Chinese cuisine. To further this goal, she presented “Consumer Acceptance of Spicy by Consumers and the Impact of Spicy on Salt Reduction” at the Fifth European Conference on Sensory and Consumer Research in 2012. She has also worked with the Institute of Asian Studies at the Temple University to instruct chefs and owners of Chinese restaurants to better utilize traditional herbs and spices to reduce the sodium content of their dishes.

From 2010 to 2016, Chef Cheng created a three-credit course for the senior undergraduate class of the American Culinary Institute: Food and Wine, Agriculture and Cultural (later called Global Cuisine and Culture). In the three-week overseas field study trip, each year, Chef Cheng led twenty five  Culinary Institute of America students to Sichuan, Xi’an, Beijing and Tianjin to study the source of cooking ingredients, such as Pixian Douban Jiang, a fermented bean and chili paste which is considered the soul of Sichuan cuisine, Wuliangye Rice Liquor Distillery to study how Chinese liquor is brewed, Pujiang Tea Farm to pick tea, watch how tea leaves are roasted, and taste tea. Despite her acclaimed career, Chef Cheng never forgot the Sichuan culinary school where she graduated and taught for nine years. She loved to bring her American students back to Sichuan Higher Institute of Cuisine (now Sichuan Tourism University) to learn Sichuan cuisine.

In 2017 and 2018, Chef Cheng was invited twice by Harvard University to train their chefs on the proper preparation of Asian dishes, and later was invited to participate in the 2020 “Flavor Summit” held by the elites of the American food and beverage industry. There, she gave a presentation titled, “Teng Jiao Pepper: A New and Exciting Taste for American Consumers,” which also served as an introduction for the ingredient itself. Her recent presentation and demonstration at the Flavor Summit in 2022 featured the Pixian Douban Jiang – The new spice for American Consumers and Cooking Demo: “Seared Fish and Tofu with Pixian Douban Jiang.

As a reflection of her impressive undertakings, Chef Cheng has accrued several accolades throughout her career. She was recognized as the Outstanding Faculty Member of the year by the Culinary Institute of America in 1997, a tremendous honor and accomplishment for a Chef who had just immigrated to the United States less than ten years prior. She was additionally honored as the Gold Medal Winner of the Japanese Ingredient Culinary Challenge Recipe Competition in New York in 2011. Notably, she has been highlighted in several instructional and culinary competition broadcasts on PBS, Epicurious.com, and The Food Network. Looking toward the future, Chef Cheng hopes to dedicate her time to teaching on a part-time basis while traveling to European countries to share her knowledge on Asian cuisine.

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