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Chef Ivan Li, from Family Li Imperial Cuisine restaurant in Shanghai, has been named as the recipient of the 2014 Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award: the honor is part of the Asia's 50 Best Restaurant Awards sponsored by S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna. Li will be presented with his award at the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony to be held February 24th at the Capella Hotel in Singapore.
Reviving China's imperial cuisine isn't an easy task. Some of the ingredients simply do not exist but chef Ivan Li has done the impossible to recreate the magical food from the royal court. At Family Li Imperial Cuisine, Li continues the legacy of his great-grandfather, Li Shunqing, who oversaw the imperial kitchen in the Forbidden City during the Qing dynasty. After retiring from the royal court, Li Shunqing recorded details of the imperial menu, noting the ingredients and culinary skills, and recalling the Empress Cixi’s favorite dishes.
Respecting the memory of his great-grandfather, Li safeguards the time-honored recipes and cooking methods that his family has preserved for four generations. His additive-free cuisine showcases the finest natural ingredients and flavors, focusing on harmony and purity of taste. Dishes are patiently cooked over a gentle oven fire, replicating the traditional practices once employed in Empress Cixi’s kitchen.
Since cooking runs in his blood, being the recipient of the Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement Award holds special meaning to Li. He said: “It is truly a great honor to be recognized by my peers. The award inspires the team at Family Li Imperial Cuisine to continue our efforts in maintaining traditions and sharing China’s culinary legacy around the world.”
In 1985, Li helped establish the first Family Li Imperial Cuisine restaurant in Beijing, later opening satellite restaurants in Melbourne, Tokyo and Taipei. In 2006, Li was appointed Technical Consultant for the Family Li Imperial Cuisine Shanghai, as well as for the Tianjin branch, opened two years later.
More recently, in 2010 Li opened the Family Li Imperial Cuisine restaurant in Beijing’s Shunyi district. A graduate of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology with a degree in Interior Design, Li was also responsible for the restaurant’s emperor-worthy interiors.
From this Beijing base, Li trains apprentice chefs to work at the Shanghai and Tianjin branches, and test-trials the thousands of imperial recipes in his collection.
“Chef Li has spent his career honoring traditional culinary practices and passing on his knowledge of imperial cuisine to future generations of chefs. His vast contribution in helping to preserve China’s food culture makes him a very worthy recipient of the prestigious Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement Award,” said William Drew, group editor of Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.