The Greater China final took place in Shanghai on 21 November, when ten young chefs from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan put on an outstanding show of talent, crowning one regional winner and three special award winners.
Victor/Zhi Cheng Wang was named regional champion after impressing the chef jury of Dong Zhenxiang, Jacqueline Qiu, Lanshu Chen, Umberto Bombana and Vicky Lau with his stand out signature dish. He will now have the honour of representing the region at the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Finale in 2020 in Milan with his "What is soy in China" dish when he faces off against the 11 other global finalists.
Fellow competitors Ho Lam Shek, Pin-Jui Su and Ingrid Gonçalves were also all awarded special prizes on the day for their ability to highlight the transformative power of gastronomy and its impact beyond the kitchen.
All four award winners will attend the overseas Grand Finale, affording them another opportunity to network with some of the biggest names in gastronomy from around the globe.
However, before they get back to work honing their skills before the Grand Finale, we took the opportunity to catch up with each of the young talents, to find out more about their dishes and their influences and hopes for the future of gastronomy.
Zhicheng Wang, winner of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef Greater China Final
Signature dish: "What is soy"
Why do you think your dish could win the Grand Finale?
Because I am doing something now, my theme is on behalf of China, "what is soy in china". I want to use Chinese ingredients in contemporary cooking, like olive oil for Italy and corn for Mexico. Soy can be on behalf of China, in my mind, so I just champion that.
How will you collaborate with your mentor in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale in Milan next year?
I want to learn from my mentor, Dadong. I think I need to learn more about the Chinese style of cooking. If I am competing in this international competition, I want to show what Chinese food is in the competition.
What are your professional dreams or aspirations?
At first, I want to do something Chinese. Let people understand what Chinese ingredients are, and secondly, I want to be a chef, a smart chef and own my own restaurant.
Ho Lam Shek, Acqua Panna Award for Connection in Gastronomy
Signature dish: "Stuffed And Marinated Chinese Golden Thread Bream, Fermented Grains, Celtuce, Chenpi Oil"
Why do you think you won the Acqua Panna for connection in Gastronomy award?
After I won the competition I felt very excited. I won this award because I believe that most traditional food allows the ingredients to shine. Water is very important for health and the dishes I created included a Cantonese traditional soup, with water as the main ingredient.
How is it possible to create a mix of different cultures creating something new?
At the beginning I wanted to show the world Cantonese traditional soup and what it can bring into your life. When I was young I had the soup almost every week and I think it was a very healthy because most Cantonese soups are good for your health. Now I can see they love my idea.
Ingrid Gonçalves , winner of the Fine Dining Lovers Food for Thought Award
Signature dish: "Between The Flavours with his signature dish."
This prize is for the young chef who best represents their personal belief within their dish: how did you transform your ideas into a dish?
That makes me proud of myself and my career, it's a new step for me in the gastronomy world. My dish "Between the flavours" represents our ancestors and the beginning of gastronomy with fire, smoke, nature and different cultures.
So, to create a combo of these ideas and express them in a dish was a huge experience and took a lot of training and time to transform it into a dish with which I felt satisfied with.
Each of the components in my dish has a meaning: The black ribeye coloured with squid ink is to represent charcoal and the fire used by our ancestors at the beginning of the gastronomy. The burnt avocado sauce represents the smoke and different flavours. The creamy quinoa represents fresh vegetables, nature and creation. Between the flavours is a mixture of cultures and meaning.
Pin Jui Su (Taiwan), S.Pellegrino Award for Social Responsibility
Signature dish: "After Rain"
Can you tell us more about the philosophy behind your dish?
This dish is called “After Rain”. It mainly presents the scene of the lotus pond. After raining, the droplets fall into the lotus pond and create ripples. Part of the dish on the plate creates the scenery of lotus pond, providing an “in the ground” dining experience. I prepared a paper card for the diner to put over the light of a mobile phone, and with the light and shadow, it will be able to form the image of the ink painting of a lotus pond with fishes inside.
What did you want to express with your dish?
At present, my style of cuisine is traditional, extending it in terms of taste, presentation, and imagery. In terms of taste, I tend to adjust the over-emphasized aroma, hoping to let guests appreciate Taiwanese cuisine from a different angle, focusing more on ingredients themselves, rather than scent, and enjoying the delicateness of the cuisine with the presentation of nature image, providing a true “in the ground" but subversive dining experience.