How One Chef Manages Six Kitchens: “I Stand on the Shoulders of Giants”

September 17, 2012 in Moments & Epic Dining
Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou has 344 rooms, six food and beverage outlets and extensive banquet facilities, all of which are managed by British-born Executive Chef David Greenhill. How is it possible that one man can oversee a 200-cook brigade in China without speaking Chinese? Well, according to Chef Greenhill, it's all about teamwork.
How One Chef Manages Six Kitchens: “I Stand on the Shoulders of Giants”
Earning respect by working alongside my team and supporting my staff is my highest priority – as it should be for any chef.

Executive Chef David Greenhill

There is something enormously satisfying about providing people with the total experience a restaurant can deliver: hospitality, comfort, sustenance, conviviality, companionship and entertainment—all under one roof.

At Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou, we have 344 rooms, six food and beverage outlets and extensive banquet facilities, so it’s a task and a half to do all that. But that’s what I strive for, and my team shares the same goal. I have to emphasize that it is my team who actually makes this happen; I’m just there for support and guidance.

As you can imagine, there are many challenges along the way to opening a culinary operation of this size. Just the task of sourcing consistent local suppliers that have the right import licenses in place is formidable. These are the things I took for granted living in Europe.

Recruitment was, and still is, tough in the ever-changing world of Guangzhou, China’s third-largest city. With many hotels opening up so quickly here, the lack of experience is frustrating. To this day, we have yet to promote someone into a position. We usually start a staff person at a level below their former position, and I think they appreciate the fact that they’re not in over their head.

This is a far cry from my first interview here almost two years ago, when a middle-aged man with a wonderful smile approached me. I asked about his experience. In response, he produced a laminated photo of a barbecued goat. He said he’d been cooking goats this way for 25 years, but by the looks of the photo, I was certain it was likely his first one. Then I asked the obvious question: “What else can you cook?”

“Nothing… just goat,” he said.

To my relief, the candidates that followed were a marked improvement!

After growing up in England, managing six restaurants in China can be a trial. Two-way communication has its challenges and that’s not helped by the fact that my Chinese is limited. No matter how much you try, things do get lost in translation. I remember one day, my sous chef Stefano walked into his office, and to his bewilderment, found a coffeemaker on his desk. He racked his brain to figure out why… then it dawned on him that he’d asked one of the chefs from our Kumoi restaurant to drop off his note pad that he’d left by the coffeemaker.

Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou: The Restaurants and Chefs
This hotel is absolutely amazing! The architecture is mind-boggling and the interior design stunning; so the food has a lot to live up to. This is where the amazing talents of certain individuals prevail. Without these key players, my quest would be unachievable. Here’s a bit about them and the restaurants they run.

Yu Yu Heen
Caffe Mondo
The Atrium Lounge

The Atrium Lounge
Relaxed but sophisticated, the lobby houses a spectacular centerpiece and an incredible atrium with a view of the 30 stories above, plus vistas of Guangzhou, the city lights and the Pearl River delta. This is a space big enough to fit St. Paul’s Cathedral! It’s an all-day restaurant with light fare and afternoon tea. Inspired by the freshest ingredients, the menu takes an updated twist on the classics.

Tian Bar
This place is colourful, fun and chic. Tian Bar boasts modern and vibrant interior design with a club feel: blue-floral upholstered lounge chairs, transparent bar stools, tall, blown-glass floor lamps, pendant ceiling lights with black glass lamp shades and full-fabric floor lamps. We’re putting heavy emphasis on champagne, trendy cocktails and superb wines—by the glass and bottle. The menu focuses on small tasting plates, tapas style and modern bar food.

Yu Yue Heen, Chinese Executive Chef Mai Zhi Xiong
This original restaurant, including its eight private dining rooms, on the 71st floor has an extensive view of the city. It has a modern, fresh feel with ornate art pieces that reflect the luxury and wealth of China. Most importantly, it is a place of comfort and ease—a place to gather and enjoy the best Guangzhou has to offer. The restaurant showcases the best of Chef Mai’s Cantonese cuisine. Throughout his nearly 30 years of culinary experiences, Chef Mai Zhi Xiong has kept his roots deeply grounded in Cantonese areas such as Jiangmen, Zhuhai, Foshan, Shunde and Guangzhou. His previous working experience was mainly associated with well-reputed local hotels and individual restaurants before he joined Four Seasons Hotel Guangzhou. Needless to say, I rest easy knowing that Executive Chef Law is in the kitchen.

Kumoi, Chef Masanobu Hoshina
This restaurant takes Japanese dining to a new level. The menu is inspired by both tradition and the modern world, designed with an innovative culinary approach and the quest to source the very best local and international produce. Kumoi gives diners a chance to experience the informal style of Japanese “izakaya” style, where everyone at the table usually shares food items. The Kumoi menu focuses on fresh seafood and prime beef cuts. Guests get a multi-sensory experience and discover “Umami,” Japanese for “pleasant savoury taste.”

With nearly 25 years of working experiences across Japan and around the world, Chef Masa is ready to lead Kumoi step into next chapter that continually be the first choice to appreciate authentic Japanese flavours as well as to experience the innovative Fusion Japanese cuisines among local guests and international visitors.

Caffe Mondo, Chef Filippo Fondatori
This all-day-dining restaurant raises Italian regional cuisine (including pizza) to heights Guangzhou has never seen. The Pizza Bar offers an array of traditional pies, plus an antipasti bar that encourages sharing and complements the relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere. We make pasta in-house and already have an established regular following.

Before coming to Guangzhou, Chef Filippo worked in an international luxury resort in Sanya where the 32-year-old Italian chef began his exploring journey in China. Earlier than that, he has worked for the world-known Le Cirque restaurants in New Delhi and in Dominican Republic for nearly four years. He was one of the two leading chefs that opened the Le Cirque in New Delhi at The Leela Palace Hotel and led the restaurant to numerous culinary awards. Before setting his culinary footprints outside Italy, he has spent years with international hotels and restaurants around the country.

Catch, Chef Paddy Chan

This specialty restaurant serves prime fish and crustaceans, the very best of local produce and seafood flown directly from international waters. The menu is underpinned by prime cuts of meat and poultry.

Chef Paddy Chan is a 15-year veteran of Four Seasons whose reputation precedes him. A powerhouse of energy and good will makes him a true ambassador to our profession. He has been instrumental in the smooth opening; and that helps us sleep well at night.

Pastry kitchen, Audrey Yee
Headed by Pastry Chef Audrey Yee, the pastry kitchen supplies the entire hotel’s dining venues, including banquets. It’s amazing to see her small factory in operation. Manned 24 hours, it produces everything in-house: from bagels to brioche, panini to Panna cotta. A well-oiled machine and fantastic creativity ensure a great pedigree in all of our sweets and baked goods.

My Right Hand
Sous Chef Jack Huang hails from China. A true chef in every sense of the word, his guidance, friendship and support have been flawless.

One Englishman, two Chinese, one Japanese, one Malaysian, one American and one Italian (you can only imagine the jokes and the differences of opinion) have come together to teach, support and guide 220 Chinese chefs and stewards operating six restaurants and a huge banquet operation. No feat with so many moving targets can be perfect, of course, and getting things right 100 percent all of the time is nearly impossible. But with 220 aspiring, dedicated, passionate and willing staff, almost anything is possible. I stand on the shoulders of giants. —Executive Chef David Greenhill

Executive Chef David Greenhill has spent 20 years preparing for what seems his ultimate posting in Guangzhou, where he fills 842 seats. He traces the start of his culinary career to a fateful decision made as a student in England and from there, began climbing the ladder at renowned restaurants across England as well as to Tokyo and Sydney. While in Australia, he helped fashion the Sydney Opera House’s culinary packages for the XXVII Olympiad and launched a successful condiment line in conjunction with a local television personality.


  1. your rice is impeccable, perfect every time. how does a british-born man do rice so well?

    Comment by mike cullen on December 28, 2012 at 3:04 am

  2. loves David’s food. He will go far in the buisness.

    Comment by Richard Howard on December 21, 2012 at 4:06 pm

  3. Dave you are a legend. Miss ya buddy. I guess your next challenge could only be haccp certification lol

    Comment by Bill Magno on December 12, 2012 at 8:50 am