Chef Moment: Meet the world’s first Chinese Chef to earn 3 Michelin stars

December 24, 2012 in Moments & Epic Dining
The road to three Michelin stars, one of the world’s most coveted culinary accolades, wasn’t an easy one for Executive Chef Chan Yan Tak of Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong’s contemporary Cantonese restaurant, Lung King Heen.
Chef Moment: Meet the world’s first Chinese Chef to earn 3 Michelin stars
I am always asked what is the secret to steaming the perfect fish, but even with the same recipe, you need to be able to judge the cooking time depending on the type and size of the fish. You can only do this with accumulated experience.

Chan Yan Tak

Executive Chef





Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong’s, Lung King Heen
Steamed Assorted Mushroom Dumplings
Wok-Fried Prawns with Garlic and Chili
Steamed Lobster and Scallop Dumpling

It took humble beginnings and years of hard work, but what a journey it’s been! Even before its Red Guide nod, Lung King Heen, which translates to “View of the Dragon,” was popular with locals and travellers alike for its exquisite food and impeccable service. Now, get to know the man behind the Michelin stars.

Born and raised in Hong Kong, Chef Tak started his career in his early teens out of necessity. His knowledge comes exclusively from hands-on experience and a love of food versus formal training. While rising through the ranks of several well-known Hong Kong restaurants, Chef Tak’s wife sadly passed away, so he took himself into early retirement to bring up his youngest child. However, the 2005 opening of the newly located Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong across the harbor gave Chef Tak the encouragement and support he needed to take a life-changing leap of faith and don his whites once more.

Michelin admits to following Chef Tak for years prior to his tenure at Four Seasons, sending its anonymous inspectors to dine at Lung King Heen 12 times before releasing the first Hong Kong and Macau Michelin Guide  in 2008. The chef is quick to point out that the stars belong to each member of his team, some who have been by his side for many years and create the overall dining experience.

In addition to Chef Tak’s menu, guests savor breathtaking views of Victoria Harbour through floor-to-ceiling windows in a spacious dining room decorated with crisp linens, contemporary flower arrangements, elegant white plates and embellishments in line with the rest of the luxurious hotel. The staff is expert at intuiting needs, whether a guest is entertaining a business associate or dining with family. The Michelin Guide also notes that “the delightful serving team describes dishes with great care and obvious pride.”

Chinese cuisine varies by region, and Cantonese is lighter in taste (less seasoning) than other regional cuisines, says Chef Tak. This makes the quality of ingredients critical for even the most basic dishes. “We always select the best produce available, even if it means the costs are higher,” he says.

Dim sum at Lung King Heen is steamed to order and seafood is plucked from a tank in the kitchen. With fresh ingredients come flair and creativity—the occasional gold leaf, truffle or caviar accents often surfacing next to standard dishes that look like works of art. Lung King Heen’s extensive seasonal menu includes more than 100 choices. Chef’s choice? The steamed lobster and scallop dumpling, baked pork buns and baked whole abalone puff with diced chicken.

You’d expect the most decorated chef in China gets asked for a recipe or two, of course. Steamed fish tops Chef Tak’s most requested list. “I am always asked what is the secret to steaming the perfect fish,” he says. “But even with the same recipe, you need to be able to judge the cooking time depending on the type and size of the fish. You can only do this with accumulated experience.”

Maybe this explains why Chef Tak’s kids always want soup and steamed fish at home—fresh ingredients no doubt purchased in person at Hong Kong’s “wet markets,” where he enjoys the sense of community and familiar faces.

Actually, that’s what he’d want to eat if it were his very last dish, says China’s most esteemed man in the kitchen: “It would be the same as usual—I’m just a simple guy.” —Katie Dillon

 

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