I-MAGAZINE speaks to the Head Chef at city of London restaurant Hutong.
What attracted you to the hospitality industry and what were you doing beforehand?
My whole career I have been a chef, it’s all that I have wanted to do. At 17 I went to culinary college in my home town, Chengdu – capital city of the Sichuan province in China
Why did you decide to become a chef? And did you have any role models?
I didn’t have any particular role models, but in my neighbourhood growing up was a very famous chef. He had a really interesting life, and I thought that that was something I would like to do!
Have you personally invented any dishes?
Because we cook authentic Northern Chinese food, I don’t ‘invent’ any dishes. But there are a number of dishes on the menu that I have put my own spin to. For example, the ‘Chefs Rice’ is very classic, but I have added our own ‘Hutong’ seasoning and Sichuan pepper oil, which gives a numbing sensation.
Why do you think your menus have become so popular?
Our menu is very well balanced. We have a lot of different flavours, and a variety of sauces. I try to develop authentic dishes, and then modify to suit the produce we have available.
What type of experience do you hope to give guests at Hutong London? Is there a particular vibe you are aiming for?
I love introducing my cuisine to people, and I think the British people are open minded and happy to try new things, which I really enjoy.
I want our guests to feel welcomed and leave happy!
Why do you think that Chinese cuisine is becoming increasingly popular around the world?
People are travelling a lot more, and there is greater understanding between different cultures. With travel, people are wanting to try a wider variety of cuisines. I think Chinese food and culture is becoming more accessible and people are more interested to try it. Indeed, people are learning also about the difference between the the different Chinese cuisines. We cook Northern Sichuan Chinese food, which is aromatic with the fire and spice of Sichuan pepper.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
In Hong Kong I worked at a private club where we had to create classics, with new techniques. Once I came up with a dish of tofu ice-cream and dan dan noodles. That was a really challenging time, but exciting and different.
What are your favourite dishes to make? Both personal and at work.
At home I like to make stews and Chinese soups.
At work I really like working with fresh seafood. My favourite ingredient at the moment is scallops. They are so delicate and sweet. I recently cooked them with a pickled chilli sauce – perfect!
What tools / instruments could you not live without in the kitchen?
We have a saying “one knife and one wok can walk around the world”.
What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?
It’s a long list, but I have favourites I like going back to. Roka is always at the top, and I really like Spanish food, and what Head Chef Yahir does at aqua nueva.
What is your favourite cuisine outside of Asian i.e. Italian, South American etc.
I like Mediterranean cuisine – balanced and simple, with strong flavours.