|Chef Ken Yu, Chinese Executive Chef of YEN Chinese Restaurant, W Taipei, Taiwan
Chef Ken Yu, Chinese Executive Chef of YEN Chinese Restaurant at W Taipei chats with The Yum List about his time in Taipei and some of his favourite dishes.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I’m the Chinese Executive Chef of YEN Chinese Restaurant at W Taipei. I have been in the industry for more than 28 years and joined W Taipei in 2013. Before W Taipei, I was working in renowned hotels and restaurants, including Michelin-Star Restaurant Cuisine Cuisine at The Mira Hotel, Hyatt Regency in Tsim Sha Tsui, The Venetian Macao and the award-winning Lei Garden. In my career, I have worked around in Asia from prestigious restaurants in Hong Kong, Macau to Beijing and also been assigned to perform gastronomic festivals in England, Thailand and Korea.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
As a Hongkongese, the best part of working in W Taipei’s YEN Chinese restaurant is this is a whole new working environment with the diversity of cultural differences to explore.
In Taipei, there are tons of famous Shanghai, Beijing and Sichuan Chinese cuisine restaurants in the market. However, the lack of top-notched Guangdong cuisine restaurant makes YEN a great opportunity to become one of the representative Guangdong cuisine restaurants in this happening city. On the other hand, it can be challenging to be away from home and my family sometimes. Taiwan is a gourmets’ paradise and a comfortable place to live, however, it’s never going to be the same as my hometown Hong Kong.
What’s the best thing about working at the W?
I like to play with ideas, just like the spirit of W Taipei. Be creative and to reinventing dishes from its original roots are the principle I have always adhered to.
What we offer in the YEN Chinese restaurant is nouvelle Cantonese. It brings me a great platform to concretize my ideas – the modern take on the traditional Chinese cuisine inspired by global presentation.
What’s your personal favourite dish?
“Braised garoupa fillet and shimeji mushroom with chicken consommé (淮陽玉液浸星斑)” is one of my favorite dishes. The luscious red coral garoupa fillet is braised by “golden chicken soup” from local free range corn fed chicken, which leaves the freshness of the fish while pouring in the extract of the nutrition from the wild chicken. The bright red fishskin, the snow-white fish fillet, the golden soup and the emerald green parsley makes the plate presentation full of color.
|Braised Garoupa Fillet
What’s your favoured food and cocktail pairing?
I recommend the Oolong Fizz from YEN Bar pairing with my dishes. The sweet and sour taste infused with rich oolong tea leaves aroma makes Oolong Fizz the perfect match with greasy Chinese cuisines. It’s the classy Fizz with a twist- the vodka was infused with Taiwan Oolong tea, therefore the taste is with layers and depth.
Tell us a story about one of the dishes you prepare…
When I was invited to be the Chinese Executive Chef of W Taipei, I learned the concept of YEN Chinese restaurant is to use local ingredients. How to transform my Cantonese dishes into local present became one of the most important challenges for me. I surveyed and tried lots of different high quality ingredients from the fresh seafood on the northern coast to the organic vegetables in southern great plain, and finally I found “chestnut pumpkin”, a special pumpkin variety planted in southern Taiwan with a very unique texture, to be the base bisque of my signature soup – “The Pearl (金露夜明珠)” .
What’s one of the most memorable moments you’d like to share from behind the scenes?
The most memorable moment after I joined YEN Chinese restaurant is the first time when I finally carried out my own dishes in YEN’s kitchen. For me, a complete dish is not just about the finished product, but the speed of execution, the amount of heat used, the teamwork, the taste and the presentation are all necessary elements. That makes the beforehand preparation more difficult to be perfect and therefore more precious to be memorized.
The perfect day off would be…
Cooking and exercising are two of the biggest pillars in my life. A perfect day off for me is driving to a beach in Yilan, Eastern Taiwan and surfing there with the brightest sun and sea breeze.
Life in the day of a chef is…
Being an executive chef in a restaurant is totally different from being a regular chef. Except for the tastefulness of the dishes, I need to take care of the ingredient quality as well as the whole condition in the kitchen. To manage and inspire chefs’ morale is also one of my critical jobs. As well to design new dishes seasonally.
What do you do for fun?
It would be exercise. I like to go jogging late at night in a park or do weight training in the gym. It releases my stress and helps me to generate more creative ideas.
How do you select your ingredients and why?
The most essential factor of a delectable dish is the quality and the freshness of the ingredients. I spend a lot of effort finding the finest ingredients from the local market just because the quality of the ingredients is the only thing to make customers keep coming into the restaurant.
What’s your view on the restaurant scene in Taipei?
It is a pity that there is currently a lack of restaurant rating programs such as the Michelin stars in Taipei. If we could establish a rating system, it would be a huge opportunity to lift up the whole quality of Taipei’s restaurants. My ambition after joining YEN is to lead the whole team to win a Michelin star in the future.
What can customers look forward to in the upcoming months?
In this February 13th – 15th , YEN Chinese restaurant will hold the Valentine’s Day dinner promotion. It is also our 3rd year anniversary of W Taipei. We have prepared the most thoughtful dinner menu for all love birds and look forward to our guests enjoying a memorable moment in the sensually designed YEN restaurant.