Chef Lanshu: the heritage of good food

Chef Lanshu Chen, recently awarded the prestigious award of Asia's Best Female Chef, tells us how her love of cooking started from an early age, and why working with different national cuisines keeps her invigorated

You’ve just been named as Veuve Clicquot Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2014. How does it feel to be re recognised for your work?

As a chef who strives for perfection, I am truly thrilled to receive the Veuve Clicquot Asia’s Best Female Chef award from Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Growing up in Taiwan, food has always been an integral part of my heritage. From an early age I appreciated the pleasures that derive from preparing and sharing meals. It is a great privilege to have my work recognised by the respected industry experts who make up The Diner’s Club World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy.

It is also a tremendous encouragement for our team and their uncompromising standards and dedication.

What do you think makes you, and Le Moût, stand out?

In the French language of viticulture, “Terroir” can be defined as the land that is part of Mother Nature and essential for growth. Elements such as sun, air, rain, soil, climate and gradient produce different varieties from one harvest to another, which is why every vineyard has its own unique characteristic.

When luxury products from around the world meet Taiwan local delicacies, there is an instant spark. Whether it’s the freshly delivered Silkie Hen’s egg, sweet baby carrot from Nanto’s organic farm, freshly plucked Angelica sprouts, line-caught Wild Amadai from Taiwan’s North – Eastern coastline, black truffle from Perigord, the far flung Beluga caviar, or the buttery Wagyu beef, it is a sensational combination that belongs to Taiwan and only indulges at Le Moût.

With classic French touches, I create my own haute cuisine by fusing local produce with luxury ingredients from all over the world.

Courteous and gracious service at Le Moût is also important. We also like to share the pleasure and passion that derives from food. Guests can also expect well-appointed interiors, exquisite table settings and exceptional gastronomy… all these elements need to converge to create lasting impressions.

How does food tie in with your heritage and upbringing?

I have loved cooking since I was a child. I grew up in a big family and my aunties are all great cooks, doing amazing traditional Taiwanese and Chinese cuisine.

I liked to help around and thus learned a lot from them. When my mom and I moved to Taipei, I was the one to cook the dinner at home since she was very busy working. I was 11 at that time. And I started to read cookbooks, and that was a lot of fun.

I used to cook Taiwanese dishes and Chinese cuisine when I was a child, then fell in love with making pastry when I was in high school. When I studied foreign languages and literature at university, I wanted something new to challenge myself. I didn’t decide to be a professional chef then, but I committed to spending up to two years exploring my interest in cooking overseas, just to see if I could make it.

I decided to learn pastry at Le Cordon Bleu for the first year, followed by a year of professional French cuisine cooking at ESCF-Ferrandi.

After I’d finished the first-year course, I realised I really loved cooking. By moving from pastry-making to traditional French cooking in the second year, I devoted myself to learning about the French culinary world. By my fourth year as an intern in Paris, I was already planning to open my restaurants.

What do you think are the challenges facing chefs in Asia?

It is important to encourage local producers to focus on high quality instead of massive production. And the lack of an open and efficient platform for produce (like Rungis central market in Paris) in many countries of Asia is quite a disadvantage for development of gastronomy.

Where do you see as the culinary hotspot in Asia?

Shanghai. The economic and political resources in this city encourage development of different cultures. Once the basic supply chain (people and the produce) is stable and trustworthy, it will be easily the culinary hotspot in Asia.

Do you think being a chef is a career that enough young people want to get involved with?

It is very important for a chef to demonstrate “Respect Yourself”; it’s a motto I keep as a sticker on my fridge. Chefs process so many ingredients and to be a good chef, you should never waste any food. Secondly, we need to present all food in the best possible way, showing diners to appreciate the effort and understand how valuable food is.

I believe all diners who come to my restaurants want to enjoy precious moments with their friends, families or loved ones. I want to make each of them to feel as if they’re being treated as a VIP, rather than just another guest. I am happy to spend to creating an unforgettable experience for them.

In Taiwan, or even in China, no one sees being a chef as a dream job. I, however, think it is cool to be a chef. It allows me to share my feelings, passion and memories through gourmet experiences.

You need to be passionate if you want to develop a career as a chef.

What are your plans for the year ahead?

We are opening our new bakery-patisserie Choux Choux in March, with a very cute ambiance, with an idea created from my breakfast and afternoon tea date with my son almost every morning and afternoon. And for the restaurant we plan to invite more Asian chefs to come to co-work with us some special dinners, not just with French cuisine but also Japanese, Indian or Thai, etc.

What is your own favourite food/snack?

Ginger Duck (in Taiwan style). It is a dish available in Winter only. Taiwanese often eat foods that fortify the body’s functions and rev up its internal heating system during the cold winter months.

Ingredient of Ginger Duck includes mature ginger root, sesame oil, rice wine, water and more than 10 types of herbs used in Chinese medicine. The duck stewed in this rich soup becomes tender and the resulting broth is mouthwatering. This dish is the perfect tonic to ward off the cold of winter.

Lanshu Chen will be presented with her award as Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2014 on 24 February in Singapore

Foodservice Consultant also spoke to last year’s winner in the Asia’s best female chef category , Duangporn Songvisava, better known by her nickname Chef Bo. Read the full feature here.


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