Chang Liu, China: "My Dream is to Let People Around the World Understand China"
Chang Liu was crowned as the most talented young chef in China during the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016 semi-finals held in July in Shanghai.
The sous-chef from Beijing will now compete at an international level at the Grand Final against 19 other young chefs for a chance of being crowned S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2016.
Liu will present his signature dish of Union is based on local ingredients that include Chinese mitten crab, winter bamboo shoots, century egg and sweet-scented osmanthus from different regions of China.
We caught up with him ahead of the Grand Final to find out more about his representation of China on a plate.
My dish is unique because …
This dish expresses the concept of ‘union’ in Chinese culture. Food materials are from different regions and seasons. The flavors differ from each other and reflect differences between regions. The memories of Chinese in different periods and places may be recalled by different flavors, such as memories of the seasons and home. The charm of traditional food material appears when a novel combination is used, which show Chinese respect and understanding for food, even awe for the nature.
What are the main influences in your signature dish?
I want the whole world to understand Chinese culture, Chinese taste, not from abroad or from Chinatown nor some very famous Chinese dishes, I hope that we are beginning to understand China from China's different regions endemic, traditional local ingredients. Various regions have different interpretations of the same ingredients and different cooking methods, or different ingredients are combined with traditional culture in the local. My dishes are formed by what I said above.
How are you collaborating with your S.Pellegrino Young Chef mentor, Steven Liu, in order to perfect your dish for the final?
Chef Steven Liu is very famous in China, I am very honoured to work with him, he gives me advice on my dish. I am also trying to make my dish even more perfect to be qualified to compete against other chefs from other countries.
What led you to choosing a career in the kitchen?
In fact, there was no particular incentive to choosing to be a chef after graduating from junior high school, I didn’t choose to senior high school but to go to cooking school. When I made my first complete dish, I secretly hid behind the door watching guests smile after tasting my dish, maybe that’s the time when I made a decision to do well and create happiness for my guests.
Who has been a mentor to you throughout your career?
There are three people, the first is Alberto Bombardela I started working with him for five years together, he continued inspiring me to improve my efficiency, I continued to practise myself, so I have the ability to deal with the difficulties that I may have.
The second is Rene Redzepi, working in noma seems that I opened the door to a new world, which makes me learn more about ingredients and nature, learn to listen, learn to communicate, I am very grateful to him.
The third is my chef, Yoji Tokuyoshi, he let me show my ideas in his restaurant as much as possible , we discuss and progress, just like friends, and he has been taught us the new ideas and new cooking techniques without reservation, I am also very grateful to him.
What are your professional ambitions?
I have realized the importance of traditional cooking method when I learn about modern cooking methods. I have also known that understanding and respecting different food material from different regions should come to the first before combining them when I cook both Chinese food and western food. I devote myself to mixing my cooking style with traditional Chinese cooking style, hoping to promote Chinese food to all over the world during meals, which may contribute to introducing Chinese culture to the world as well.
What’s the best dish you ever tasted? - where did you eat it and who cooked it?
The most delicious food that I have ever had is what my mother cooked, my mother is not a professional chef, but from her food I can taste the passion for cooking, this is what I want my guests can feel from my cooking in the future.
What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
I am very excited that I was able to win the final in China and have the chance to compete with other outstanding chefs from other countries in the world. This competition is like a bridge linking culture of each country together by food, but we can also learn from each other communicate with each other, which is very exciting.
What will you do if you win the competition?
If I win the competition, I think winning is not an end, but a beginning. I would still stick to my dream and let people around the world understand China, Chinese ingredients, Chinese culture, and learn to communicate continuously to promote the whole industry.