It was elite credentials by any standard – to be among the first batch of chefs awarded the country’s highest culinary honor, the National Grade of China; and to be recognized as one of China’s 8 most illustrious chefs. But these were not Chef Wu Rui Kang’s, they were his dad’s.
|Photo by Isaac Lau|
Chef Wu’s entry into Michelin fame was dramatic. His restaurant’s non-inclusion in the inaugural Michelin Guide Hong Kong 2008 was greeted with howls of disbelief and derision from local food magazines and netizens. The credentials of the Michelin arbiters were questioned, in particular their knowledge of the Chinese food scene in Hong Kong. The following year came the much-deserved nod from Michelin, with a one-star ranking.
In fact Chef Wu’s sterling career was hardly heralded. After graduation from university he held a senior post in the Chinese civil service, from which he left to start a small restaurant in Hangzhou. As business grew, he decided to shift his base to Hong Kong, where his father was working at that time as executive chef for a renowned Hangzhou-style restaurant. Chef Wu opened the Hong Zhou Restaurant in 2006.
|Top right, clockwise: Stuffed Lotus Root with Glutinous Rice; Drunken Smoked Carp; |
Cooked Bamboo Shoots; Chopped Vegetable with Bean Curd and Fried Vegetarian Goose.
“Hangzhou cuisine is one of the eight great cuisines of China; Sichuan and Cantonese being two of the others,” said the Chef. “But while Sichuan and Cantonese food has become well-known inside and outside of China, Hangzhou food is just beginning to get popular, especially in China”, he adds, “and in Hong Kong, Cantonese and Shanghai food is still king”.
|Fish Balls with Chinese Ham|
So while the Chef is highly esteemed in Hong Kong food circles, his audience remains small, ardent, and focused. But Chef Wu is patient and resolute.
“Hangzhou food is pretty pared down; ingredients are the focus, and the main ingredient always delivers the key flavor,” he explains. “Not spices, not the sauces…but the main ingredient itself; even salt and oil are used very sparingly”. Presentation, likewise, boils down to the deftness of skill of chef and knife. “Hangzhou food,” enthuses Chef Wu, “has lasted so many centuries because of its simplicity and strong traditions”.
|Fried Fresh Water Eels|
But what makes a great chef? “It takes a combination of assets -- kitchen ethics, intelligence, and innate gifts”, says the Chef. Kitchen ethics implies respect and humility, especially before teacher or master, he says, and the willingness to give your best in everything from cooking to personal hygiene. In short: attitude.
|Smoked Yellow Croaker|
1/F Chinachem Johnston Plaza
178-186 Johnston Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong
Tel: +852 2591 1898