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Nouveau French cuisine, traditional Chinese style

Updated: 2012-09-24 09:47
By Ye Jun ( China Daily)

Nouveau French cuisine, traditional Chinese style

Emmanuel Zhao fuses his Michelin-starred experience into the menu of Scarlet French restaurant, in which fennel salad with marinated salmon and croutons (top) and sauteed seabass with fried spinach and soybean juice (bottom) are recommended. Photos by Zhang Wei / China Daily

A young Beijinger is making waves on the culinary scene with his unique epicurean philosophy. Ye Jun sits down and experiences his special style.

As far as the chef is concerned, there is no differentiation between French and Chinese cuisine. There is only good food, and bad food. Chef Emmanuel Zhao, executive chef at Scarlet French restaurant at Hotel G Beijing, happily pairs bean sprouts with beef tartar, and it's sprouts he had bought from a farmer by the side of the expressway on the way home to Fangshan. They are sprouts the old man had produced for his own family, and free from pesticides or chemical fertilizers.

The 29-year-old Beijinger chef, who is now a French citizen, had returned to China in April, after eight years in France where he worked in five restaurants, including three with Michelin stars.

Although Scarlet at Hotel G is more a casual, relaxed wine bar than a fine-dining restaurant, Zhao has fused plenty of his Michelin-starred experience into the menu. He has changed almost all items on the old menu, and introduces seasonal produce twice a week.

The chef is serving sauteed sea bass with Chinese soybean juice, and very lightly sauteed beef tartar for customers who find raw beef hard to swallow.

Zhao says he is probably the only chef to offer pate en croute in Beijing - minced pork, duck liver and duck breast baked in puff pastry - the perfect match for a glass of wine. Soon Zhao plans to add one more layer to the traditional French dish - pork jelly.

Another new item that will soon appear are crepes, the street food pancakes of France. It was a suggestion by a customer that prompted the chef to add the crepes, which will be available in three flavors, with honey, sugar and chocolate.

The young chef believes you must do your own shopping to find the best local ingredients, and also know exactly how your food tastes. That is why Zhao makes his kitchen colleagues test taste all the dishes they prepare.

"They have to like the dish themselves so that the diners will like it," he says.

Zhao was 21 when he entered The Institute of Tourism at the Beijing Union University. He did so well in his two years majoring in culinary and catering management that he was sent to the Tourism Institute at the University of Angers, France, to continue his studies.

After finishing his internship at a restaurant called "16", the executive chef recommended him to Le Meurice, a three-Michelin-starred restaurant, where the young Chinese chef stayed for a year.

Nouveau French cuisine, traditional Chinese style

"I worked for 16 hours a day, and rested only one day a week, when all I could do was sleep. Even my girlfriend couldn't understand why a chef would be so busy."

After he told his boss he wanted to go back to work in China, the chef recommended him to the Four Seasons Hotel George V, where he worked for two years.

"This was where I learned to cook Western cuisine with Asian ingredients," he says. "I also learned to respect food. Only in that way can food be good to you."

He then spent his last six months in France in 2011 at Le Grand Vefour Restaurant, another three-Michelin-starred restaurant, where he became sous chef. Apart from putting his Michelin know-how into the menu, the talented chef is doing a degustation dinner to showcase his understanding of creative food pairing with seasonal produce.

The latest of these will be on Sept 28 and Oct 26, for a limited 30 guests, priced at 398 yuan ($63) net per person.

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