Chinese Cuisines in Michelin Star Restaurants
Dr Watson Baldwin, Faculty of Management and Hospitality
Restaurants listed on the Michelin Guide represents the highest quality of food and service. The restaurants’ artisan chefs would bring or transfer original native cuisines into Hong Kong. However, in most cases, these “foreign” cuisines are not the usual types of food that local people are used to so adaptation is often necessary to suit local taste. Dr Watson Baldwin of the Culinary Arts and Management Programme has previously examined the challenges that Michelin Star Japanese chefs encountered in Hong Kong. He noticed that although the chefs needed to alter the ingredients and cooking techniques to satisfy local customers’ tastes, they continued to strive to preserve the “Japanese-ness” of the cuisine.
Do Hong Kong Chinese chefs face similar challenges as their Japanese counterparts do when introducing new flavours to the customers? How do they overcome the challenges? Dr Baldwin and his research team sought to answer these questions by finding out what steps, if any, did Michelin Star Chinese chefs have to take to ensure their cuisine is successful in Hong Kong. The team analysed data collected from various sources including interviews with local Michelin Star Chinese chefs, restaurant review websites such as “Trip Advisor” and “Open Rice”, television interviews, and publications such as “Invest Hong Kong”, “Hong Kong Tatler” and “The Michelin Guide”. The recipes and dishes obtained from some Michelin Star restaurants were also analysed for their ingredients and cooking methods.
Cuisine from 2-Star Michelin Restaurant, "Rùn", at "The St. Regis Hong Kong" hotel.
The findings showed that Michelin Star Chinese Chefs needed to adapt their traditional, authentic Chinese dishes to suit Hong Kong customers’ tastes; and to continue to innovate in order to stay competitive in the market. Moreover, along with a Michelin Star award came a high level of expectation from both the customers and the chefs themselves. The chefs were under immense pressure to create dishes that were novel, tasty, and captivating while striving to keep the culinary authenticity of the dishes at their birthplace. From the customers’ point of view, dining at a Michelin Star restaurant is expected to be an exceptional, unforgettable culinary journey.
By studying the ingredients, taste combinations, and cooking methods, the study was a useful exercise to understand the steps taken when transferring a cuisine from one culture or region to another. It can serve as an applied teaching practicum for culinary arts education, and provide insights for industry concerning the transference of Michelin Chinese cuisine to local market and the bridging process of cuisine from past to present in Hong Kong.
Dr Baldwin with THEi's Culinary Arts and Management students
(Acknowledgement: This project was supported by the THEi Seed Grant Scheme, Project No.: SG1718101.)