I love Cantonese food, I love Chiu Chow food, I love food. And I think it's a big tradition, especially the different regions of China and the food is so beautiful. Cantonese, so settled. The technique of Chiu Chow food, poach the goose at certain times, the stock, they refresh the stock every day.
Is there something about that that inspires your own career as a chef? And what specifically fascinates you in the way you say it does?
Well, first the technique. You know, if you see the steaming... for Cantonese, steam is crucial. Steaming dim sum, steaming seafood steaming clams, or whatever. So that's the technique. Chiu Chow has a different, famous technique. They poach the goose with the spice and refreshing the stock... and the stock goes on and on and on. It's fascinating. It's just amazing how the culture developed this kind of flavor and this kind of technique.
Do the techniques, the flavors, the foods... does it tell you something about the people behind it?
Of course. It's basically, it's the deepness of the culture you can see. Chinese have to develop so many techniques to cook so many kinds of food. That's why there is a deep technique in Chinese food. But Chinese, a bit like Italian, they cook the chicken feet, the brain, the guts and everything, that's culture, you know. Only a few countries in the world can develop this culture.
It's interesting to hear you speak about Chinese cuisine in such high terms as an haute cuisine, because many people abroad will see Chinese cuisine as cheap, ready-made, take away. Why do you think Chinese food has had that problem in communicating its value and story in other countries?
I guess another point of Chinese cuisine, they know how to make it affordable. It's like Italian, we are famous for pizza, because it's affordable food. For example, the French are more famous for gourmet cuisine. But Italian food, we have to... a bit like Chinese food... you need to fill up the stomach. So, you think about what to use, and then fill up the stomach in an inexpensive way as well. So, that's why maybe as Chinese or Italian, they are seen more as a family restaurant than an expensive restaurant, that's the reason, I think.
China has had a very complex relationship with food. One of the great needs which perhaps you are referencing is the long history of poverty and hunger over many, many centuries in China. Do you think there's a link between that need and the need also to "fill up" the stomach?
Of course, of course, definitely. You know, we are saying hunger stimulates your imagination, so, you have to learn how to eat everything. But at the same time, you had the monarchy, the kingdom, they eat the best of the best. Both cuisines develop, the noble cuisine and the casual cuisine for the peasants, same-same as in Italy.