On the menu: Art deco-style gems

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By MIKE PE­TERS

The most in­ter­est­ing din­ner of 2015 may have been served in Shang­hai late last fall, when theWorld Congress on Art Deco con­vened for a vin­tage ban­quet at the Fair­mont Peace­Ho­tel.

The his­toric ho­tel on the Bund has been a sym­bol of the city’s ar­chi­tec­ture since its con­struc­tion in 1929, part of the art deco surge that de­fined moder­nity in the early 20th cen­tury. Dozens of ex­perts and en­thu­si­asts of the style came to Shang­hai for a week of talks, walks and stylish retro evenings, in­clud­ing the fi­nale din­ner at the grand ho­tel built by Sir Vic­tor Sas­soon, which was orig­i­nally named the Cathay Ho­tel.

The ho­tel chef Jeremy Har­ris dis­closes how the ban­quet came about.

What sources did you have for de­vel­op­ing the menu?

That was in­flu­enced by an old menu that was found in our Fair­mont Peace Ho­tel Mu­seum. The “old Shang­hai menu”, as we call it, was most likely a daily menu from the Fine Din­ing Restau­rant, which is dated from 1931. We took some dishes right off of this menu and repli­cated them and we also adapted a cou­ple of dishes in a con­tem­po­rary style.

How many cour­ses in­volved, and how guests did you have? were many

We served ap­prox­i­mately 160 guests a five-course din­ner.

What com­pro­mises did you have to make to du­pli­cate dishes from nearly a cen­tury ago?

We re­ally did not make any com­pro­mises. How­ever, we did en­hance the dishes slightly as, in the old menu, the de­scrip­tions were not ex­cit­ing. We added some flair to the dishes but stil­lkept the in­tegrity of the old menu. For ex­am­ple, the Pomelo Fruit Cock­tail on the old menu we con­verted to a prawn ap­pe­tizer with

pomelo and or­ganic greens.

Was there a spe­cific dish that was a par­tic­u­lar chal­lenge?

None of the dishes were very dif­fi­cult, but I had to do some re­search on the Nes­sel­rode Pud­ding. I re­ally had no idea what it was, hon­estly. The dessert is an al­mond cream pie with dried fruits and a gra­ham-cracker crust.

What was the best part of putting this din­ner to­gether?

I re­ally en­joyed the tastepanel process for de­vel­op­ing the fi­nal menu for the guests at the ac­tual din­ner. It was fun to de­scribe the dishes on the old menu and then show how we were pre­sent­ing them years later. It was also fun to imag­ine a chef do­ing the same menu in 1931 as we were in 2015. The ex­e­cu­tion of the ac­tual din­ner was also fun. We do an abun­dance of “plated din­ners” so we’re ex­perts, but this one took ex­tra fo­cus.

What’s the story be­hind the dish from that era that you now serve at the all-day lobby restau­rant, Vic­tor’s?

We serve our fa­mous Sir Vic­tor’s Sas­soon Curry, which is a ho­tel sig­na­ture. Sir Vic­tor Sas­soon was a busi­ness­man in present-dayMum­bai, so his pref­er­ence for curry ob­vi­ously came from his ex­pe­ri­ence in In­dia. It is still a pop­u­lar dish to­day in Vic­tor’s.

Will any dishes you cre­ated for the art deco-con­fer­ence menu be ap­pear­ing on the reg­u­lar ho­tel menu?

I will not in­cor­po­rate any of th­ese dishes into the menus here in the ho­tel. How­ever, in the Cathay Room, which is our fine-din­ing restau­rant, we put heavy in­flu­ence on clas­sic prepa­ra­tions. We do a lot of dishes with con­fit style (salted and cooked in fat at a low tem­per­a­ture), and also dishes that are clas­sic in na­ture but present them in a more con­tem­po­rary style. A great ex­am­ple is our Duck Con­fit in Phyllo, and also our Salmon Ril­lettes.

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