Updated: 2012-06-16 07:50
By Sun Li (China Daily)
A Bite of China, a food documentary series that has triggered online shopping crazes for the various delicacies shown in the program, has also bitten into the lives of the people it covered.
One of those, Huang Guo-sheng, 59, is a farmer who makes and sells yellow steamed buns with his wife in Suide county, Shaanxi province.
Following the airing of the documentary, he was approached by Jia Guolong, the owner of Xi Bei Northwest Dishes in Beijing.
Jia was hoping to convince the farmer to join his team and make his special buns for customers in his popular restaurant chain, which is characterized by cuisine from the northwestern Chinese countryside.
“I told Huang my idea. The farmer, simple and honest as he seemed in the documentary, said he didn’t really understand what I was doing,” Jia said.
“So I invited him to Beijing to visit the restaurant’s outlets first.”
But an Internet buzz was raised soon after Jia revealed his plan and posted a photo featuring him and the farming couple on his Sina Weibo micro blog.
While some netizens said Jia made a smart move to promote his brand and help Huang lead a better life, others argued it was a blatant publicity stunt and a commercial “abduction”.
“I won’t deny the publicity issue. The documentary has been enormously popular and Huang has become more celebrated,” Jia said.
“But as a businessman, there is nothing wrong with grabbing a chance to boost my business,” he said.
Despite the publicity, Jia said that what really mattered was that his intentions were 100-percent good.
“From the documentary, you can tell Huang’s life is far from rich. He works hard and walks miles to the town to sell his steamed yellow buns, but his earnings are very limited,” Jia said.
“I want him to have a better life. If there is a chance that could enable him to enhance his life by doing the same thing he used to do, why not take it,” Jia said.
Jia disagreed with the term “abduction” and said Huang would make a decision for himself.
“To those who mentioned the word ‘abduction’, how do you know Huang doesn’t want to change his life,” Jia said.
Huangs spent three days in Beijing visiting Jia’s restaurant and touring places of interest before returning home last weekend, Jia said.
“So far, Huang only expressed his willingness to join us. The exact form of cooperation, whether it is to hire the couple as chefs or to let them train our employees, requires further negotiation,” Jia said, adding he has already urged Huang to consult lawyers and the local government.
Huang was not available for comment.
Chen Xiaoqing, the lead director of A Bite of China, said he has no control over the effects the documentary may have over the lives of those it portrays.
“All we can promise, still, is we won’t disturb the characters’ lives during our future shooting of the sequel,” Chen said.
“If a character’s life changes after the show, I hope it will change in a positive manner.”