“A mission for a documentary is to keep a record of history,” Xiaoqing Chen once highlighted. And this is the reason that intrigued him to document food. Inspired by the peculiarity and diversity, Chen decided to dedicated his career as a director to document the food world on the screen.
Chen is the Chinese documentary director of Flavorful Origins, who has risen to fame since A Bite of China got thunderous applause in 2012. Chen narrates anthropology by filming food, delivering series that are far more interesting than expected. Not only he unveils charms of classic Chinese culinary arts, but also he advocates the world-wide lands of diversities. Last but not least, Chen works to pay tribute to agriculture in an ancient civilization based on sustainable farming.
After a debut hit on Netflix earlier this year, the sequel to Flavorful Origins was released in the last weeks. To continue taking root in Chinese culinary culture, the 10 episodes feature in-depth knowledge of gastronomy aesthetics about Yunnan province– a biodiversity region in Southwest China.
Fine Dining Lovers got in touch with him and this is his story and his point of view on food and gastronomy, seen through the lens of his art.
The marvel of multiplicity
It is true that perspectives matter. After spotting light on the inherence between Chinese and traditional Chinese food through A Bite of China, Chen turned his camera lens to present how the components of climate, soils and social customs are essential to local food culture by A Bit of Shunde - three 50-minute episodes in 2016 filmed over a gourmet city in Southeast China’s Guangdong province.
It was very soon that Chen set foot on continents to feature a specific dish or ingredient with multi-faceted interpretations by Once Upon A Bite in 2017. Following Chen’s ‘food tour’, we would appreciate the marvel of nature, cross-culture, and our human beings. Take Macau’s favorite dish of African chicken for example, its sauce consists of 10 spices coming from the Mediterranean Sea, Africa, Indian Ocean, and Southeast Asia as Portuguese dwelled in Macau.
The first time to move the camera for close-ups of food lands in the series of Flavorful Origins in 2019. The time-testing dishes are as miniatures revealing local cultures from macro to micro aspects. As Chen clarified, “Flavorful Origins expects to symbolize a place of origin by distinguishing dishes.” To take a closer look at the wide stretch of Chinese gourmet cultures, Chen disclosed that the sequels are on moving to Northwest China’s Gansu province and Southwest China’s Guizhou province.
Food as a bridge to connect the world
Chen believes that food culture chronicles humankind, and, food is a bridge to connect the world no matter how the culture differs from others. Chen illustrated, “the hams’ textures and flavors delicately change among Italy, Spain, and China, but they can be made in common.” Led by the philosophy, Chen and his team are taking the challenge to present complex topics. The two upcoming series of Grain Planet and Spice World will raise the unknowns through grains and sauces, such as personality, sociology, religion, and agriculture.
To some extent, culture barriers would disappear once they interact together. Finally comes to the next stop - Lyon, a world gourmet center in South France, where Chen is invited by a local official to document the one-of-a-kind gourmet capital. “I am going to feature it by Twin Cities,” Chen explained that he will make comparisons of Lyon and a gourmet city in China.
The fascination of stories behind culture
With distinctive storytelling with the elements of excellent content, skillful plots, and flowing scenes are favored across the globe, Chen constantly makes a breakthrough. For instance, the team optimizes macro photography.
One the one hand, high expectations from audiences stimulate Chen to practice perfect. One the other hand, the insights from intellectuals influence him to grow his own. Are you curious about what kind of food documentary would impress him? “Delicious food, heartfelt persons behind the food and the splendid culture definitely play significant roles,” demonstrated Chen.