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Emerging Chefs #2

by Jacqueline M. Newman

Personal Perspectives

Summer Volume: 2005 Issue: 12(2) page(s): 26

In the hard copy, this column was called: Emerging Chefs: Composite View. In line with others, there has been a slight name change of thoughts from students at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. All thoughts are from students of Chef Instructor Shirley Cheng. If you missed previous thoughts, check out Flavor and Fortune's Volume 12(1) on pages 29 and 30. And, if you know a student chef, or if you yourself are just learning or expanding your own knowledge about Chinese food and have thoughts to share, be they successes or failures, send them to us. Please, understand that they will not be returned and will be used in whole or part, at the discretion of the editor. Every item used will be acknowledged at the end of its composite article. Outstanding submissions may be used as a complete article, as was Alison Fong's in Volume 11(4) on pages 17 and 18. Authors of each accepted submission will receive two copies of that issue, but only if their submission is accompanied by their snail-mail address. And yes, recipes are welcome as are illustrations of the item(s) discussed, but not if they are taken from a cookbook or any other printed or web-based source. They must be original and born out of the writer's creativity and wok. Now to the views of these emerging chefs, each garnering a separate paragraph.

"I was lucky to have a family who encouraged me to try new things. Due to my home's proximity to New York City's Chinatown, I would often venture over to Canal and nearby streets to sample different varieties of vegetables and fruits on display. When I was fourteen, my father decided it was time to take me to what he deemed was a 'New York institution,' a restaurant called Wo Hop. We ordered Egg Rolls and Hot and Sour Soup to start and I was blown away by the flavor of both of them. No Chinese food before was as good as that first bite of Egg Roll and that first spoonful of Hot and Sour Soup. The Chow Fun and Beef with Orange Sauce that followed were also unbelievably good. The spicy Kung Pao Chicken was surely spicy and it was extremely delectable. I did not realize at the time, this was a meal that would change my life."

"I now know that the cooks at Wo Hop put out simple Chinese dishes almost flawlessly. Their food is some of the best in New York City, and it comes without any glitz. Furthermore, it was then available any time of day or night. This restaurant has a downstairs and a street level eatery. Diehard Wo Hop gourmands eat downstairs among the pictures of the celebrities who have dined here. Clearly you do not have to have a twenty-million dollar kitchen to put out high caliber Chinese food!"

"There are four reasons why I love HSF, a restaurant located at 46 Bowery in New York City. Firstly, I can take the subway, the Q train, directly there. Secondly, it is in the middle of Chinatown. The third reason is that I have been going there since childhood. Fourthly, HSF has awesome dim sum. The smells wafting overhead while waiting for a table are intoxicating. My absolute favorite are their Roast Pork Buns. When I was away at college in a Western New York town, I wanted to make some so when home on vacation, I bought all the ingredients except the roast pork, which I obtained at a local Chinese buffet. It took a few tries to get the right proportions. And when I had them, I steamed eighteen pork buns. They were not as good as those at HSF, but I did love them."

"I learned in my classes with Chef Instructor Cheng at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park New York that many cultures say there are four, others say there are five taste sensations. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. That last one is how it feels after eating ingredients such as shiitake mushrooms or fish sauce. It is the feeling one gets from those taste sensations that can only be described as all encompassing. It brings all taste sensations together to form a new one; a flavor that some have even equated to sex. Now that I have your attention, drum rolls please, the ingredient is MSG, and the taste is what the Japanese call umami."

"I believe that Chinese cuisine is the umami of the culinary world. When one eats Chinese food there is a wonderful satisfaction and all your senses have been heightened. A Chinese meal is not just a meal, it is an experience. The flavors of Chinese food explode in your mouth. For me, the sound of the sizzling wok makes my mouth water. Overall, Chinese food instruction has enlightened my culinary journey and I for one, can not wait to experience more of its delights."

"Food is an extension of culture. At the CIA, French and other Western cuisines are contrasted with the efficient and intuitive techniques developed by Eastern cultures. CIA students are introduced to the creative and logical techniques of Asian cookery in Chef Cheng's course. The overwhelming feeling that takes over resembles the sensation that a toddler receives after realizing the amazing benefits of walking as opposed to crawling."

"Stock production is an example of how efficient eastern cooking techniques are. Classically, western chefs slowly simmer bones and produce, in order to suck out every ounce of life from the items simmering in hot liquid. The resulting product is a liquid completely infused with the flavors of the ingredients and a pile of lifeless mush. Classic Chinese stock focuses on quick flavor extraction resulting in a flavorful yet light product. A typical Chinese stock uses about three ingredients and a cooking time that only approaches two hours. That is a quarter of the time that French chefs need for theirs."

"Asian cookery is based upon logic and practicality. Teaching its techniques to classically trained culinary students broadens their perspectives. Future chefs, myself included, will continue in an even greater degree, to utilize eastern culinary techniques. Learning about them is the way to go!"
This article was made possible thanks to Chef Professor Shirley Cheng's students: Jeffrey Teller, Matthew Raphael, Chris Uhk, and Michael Israel.

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