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Wonders of Wonton: 76-Year Old Unveils YouTube Channel and E-Cookbook

07/09/2014 02:41 pm ET | Updated Sep 04, 2014

My grandmother has absolutely no idea what the internet is. When the topic comes up in conversation around the kitchen table, she generally starts scanning the room for something else to focus on, or she nods off in her chair. For my grandma, the internet exists in an entirely different world that we tech-driven youngsters live in. She's not even remotely interested.

It's like this for most of the folks I meet in their 70s and 80s, save for one very impressive 76-year old woman named Lorraine Witte.

Dubbed "The Chinese Lady" by close friends, Lorraine is a former food producer and lifelong cooking teacher who, left wondering how to move her career forward in a world gone digital, turned to the internet for inspiration. She spent a few years taking computer classes at her local Apple Store, then launched her first e-book on the iTunes iBook Store: A Pot of Rice to the Wonders of Wonton.

(photo credit: Lorraine Witte and Josimar King)

Lorraine's e-book, full of rich photos and instructional videos, shares the art and craft of making wontons from simple, everyday ingredients, complete with detailed videos that demonstrate all the folding techniques required to achieve wonton perfection. This is alongside her popular YouTube channel, where she uses video to teach a variety of Asian- and western-inspired recipes.

The recipes and videos in Wonders of Wonton alone would be an inspiration, but the book also serves as a mini-memoir detailing Lorraine's life in food, with delectable vignettes interwoven through recipes and old family photos. With help from production developer Josimar King, who designed the e-book itself and managed the photography and videography, it's an impressive production to be sure - made even more so by the fact that Lorraine is nearing 80 and embarking on a new career in culinary digital media.

I recently caught up with Lorraine at her e-book release party, where I was lucky enough to sample the recipes from her book. She was generous enough to indulge me in few questions about her future plans as a budding culinary superstar on the internet.

(photo credit: Lorraine Witte and Josimar King)

You've been a cooking teacher for many years. Can you tell us a little about your background in food, and why you decided to take your culinary skills to the internet?

My whole life is centered around food! My background in teaching led to creating my own product line, Lorraine Lee Foods. I also participated at Fancy Food Shows and worked with many private clients. Prior to all of that, however, I was the spokesperson in a nation-wide commercial campaign for Chung King Foods.

I took my culinary skills to the internet when I realized how powerful it is. Technology would help me reach out to a much larger audience, whether it was teaching how to make wontons or sharing my life stories about food. This made reaching a much younger generation very engaging, in a way that was consumable by them. No young person is excited to read a paperback anymore.

With the reach of the internet and modern technologies, it was simply a fun, very creative, new and exciting experience for me.

Please tell me more about your new e-book.

My new e-book is a fusion of my passion for wontons and food-related life stories. I discovered traditional publishing can be an outdated process which takes a very long time, along with a lack of control in materializing my vision. I was fascinated when I leaned from a teacher that the entire process of self-publishing was quicker and less cost prohibitive. As it turned out, self-publishing an electronic book ended up being the most engaging medium for me to incorporate photos, how-to videos, stories, and other interactive elements.

Why wontons? What makes them so special to you?

I have loved wontons since I was a child, folding them in my father's restaurant. They transport me back to the square table where I folded all those wontons to earn 10 cents for a visit to the movie theater. The process grew from love, then evolved into a passion. As an adult, I realized students in my cooking classes really enjoyed making them as well.

Even simply biting into a wonton pleases me. There are surprises inside each bite. Making wontons allows me to be creative with the variations of filling, and each time I create a new type of wonton there is always a reason, a story, or some kind of meaning behind it.

You've created a popular YouTube channel and a gorgeous video-laden e-book, all in your 70s. Can you tell me what the learning curve was like, and why you decided to turn to the internet to share your passion?

I love learning, so it wasn't hard for me when I realized I needed help to create my own e-book. Also, being a disciplined person, the repeated testing of the recipes may have been tedious, but I knew it had to be done properly.

Josimar King, my producer, was already shooting the YouTube videos, so I reached out to him for help. He loves to eat, so it was a match made in wonton heaven. Prior to my book venture, I had entered my eighth year of taking computer classes at my local Apple Store. I never felt too old to learn and I happily accept new challenges. Truthfully, for me, there is such a feeling of achievement when I've accomplished a new goal.

(photo credit: Lorraine Witte and Josimar King)

How would you encourage others in your generation, who might not be to internet savvy, to carve out a place for themselves in the digital world?

I have already encouraged so many of my friends to learn all about their computers and to gather the courage to take classes that will introduce them to the 21st century. The internet offers so much information that I feel we have to take advantage of the knowledge that is so freely offered. Besides, using all parts of our brain in our seventies wards away so many kinds of maladies.

Practice does make us better, no questions about that. I like to inspire by example; it makes me feel terrific.

What's next in your plan for digital media domination?

A Pot of Rice to the Wonders of Wonton has been so well received that I already have a couple more e-books in the making. I'm also filming more free video recipes for my YouTube channel. I am aiming for a million views!

I think, potentially, I will teach some more live classes. And since I'm enjoying this technology businesses so much, I'll put on some live, streaming, cooking demonstrations where the audience can interact with me in real-time. I am steadfast in my efforts on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and all other social medias with the hashtags and the "ats" and the everything else these kids keep coming up with. If I have any time left over, who knows? I might even give blogging a try!

Stephanie Stiavetti is a food writer and cookbook author living in Oakland, CA. Her first book, Melt: the Art of Macaroni and Cheese, shares 75 inspired artisan cheese recipes. She also blogs over at TheCulinaryLife.com.

(photo credit: Lorraine Witte and Josimar King)