Welcome to Shangri-La International Festival of Gastronomy! The festival is a celebration of our passion for cuisine. We have invited our celebrity chefs to share their fruitful and exciting culinary careers with you.
This series comes to an end with Chef Ip Chi Cheung, the Executive Chinese Chef of Island Shangri-La, Hong Kong.
1. What makes you keep your enthusiasm to contribute in Gastronomy of Cantonese Cuisine?
Ip: In my perspective, the key element of Cantonese Cuisine is the mixture of Appearance, Smells, Tastes and Temperature which is not easily replaced by other cuisines. For instance, the cooking process of Fusion Cuisine requires separate processing and pre-processing of the ingredients. Perhaps I first started my career in Cantonese Cuisine; I personally think dishes in other cuisines are lack in temperature and aroma, which is unique in Cantonese Cuisine, such as stewed fish and braised abalone.
2. What are you going to achieve in the coming stage?
Ip: Being a chef for many years, I sincerely hope that the young generation can be interested in working as a chef of Cantonese Cuisine. We can share our experiences with them so that the cooking culture of traditional Cantonese Cuisine can be inherited. In the current situation, the industry lacks in manpower because the number of the young generation’ intake is consistently declining. In 1970’s-1980’s, especially for illegal immigrants, working in the kitchen is favorable because it provides meals, accommodation, and salary. Nowadays, working in the kitchen is unfavorable to the young generation because of its long working hours and uncomfortable working condition.
To emphasize, the youth are more familiarized with English and IT knowledge which allow them to use this absolute advantage to bring Cantonese Cuisine on an international stage. Due to the factor of manpower getting less in the industry, there are numerous training programmes with job opportunities in some institute to help the youth upgrade and obtain skills in Cantonese Cuisine. In order words, it is full of learning and promotion opportunities. The determining factor is the attitude, you have to take it seriously and keep practicing the techniques you have learned.
3. Where did you start your Chef Career? Could you share something unique and inspiring food culture to us?
Ip: I started my Chef Career in a Chinese restaurant when I was fourteen. In terms of food culture, people are more concerned with healthy diet nowadays. Customers will look for meals that are healthy and light. Comparing to 70s’ and 80’s, many foods and meals are containing lard as it adds aroma to the food. Back in 70’s and 80’s, chef normally wear less cloth to work, because inside the kitchen is a poorly ventilated workplace, it is wet and hot to work in the kitchen. Nowadays, people put more emphasis on working environment in the kitchen. For instance, the ventilation system is installed and uniforms are prepared for Chef.
4. What would you tell our young Chef?
Ip: In order to be a Chef, two main attributes are required: earnest and enthusiastic. I suggest young Chef spend time on practicing their own technique as this industry is full of opportunities. There are many types of meals in Cantonese Cuisine, making good use of ingredients and cooking methods in another country can enrich the content of Cantonese Cuisine, such as Foie Gras from France, Wagyu Beef from Japan and Black Truffle etc. Furthermore, there are many existing resources to learn cooking. Young Chef can learn fundamental skills in cooking institutes. If they are pursuing advance skills, they are advised to learn practically from different Chef in Chinese restaurant and hotels. As different Chef may have different processing skills, they have to absorb other’s strength which is beneficial to their own creation.