From fine dining to flipping burgers
Michelin star chef ditches fancy hotels for the excitement of the pop-up stand
A pop-up is more about the excitement for both diners and servers because of the short duration of its existence. People these days constantly want to be entertained and excited. Pop-up stores are a great opportunity for the operator and the guest chef to exchange ideas, be mutually inspired and learn from each other. This is my second time doing pop-up with Beef & Liberty. There should be more in the coming years in both the Chinese mainland and Asia. The pop-up dynamics are very much driven by social media, which is also the future.
As a chef, I am always concerned about delivering food when it is at its freshest. However, we are in the hospitality industry, which means we have to adapt to what our guests want. And if they want to spend 15 minutes taking a picture, that is their choice. It’s not for me to tell them what is right or wrong. What I am going to tell them is that when I serve it to you, that’s the right moment. If you miss it, that’s your choice.
No, I serve it delicious, because at the end of the day that’s what counts for me. Of course I would want to make it look good and appealing, but I don’t want to overstyle it. You can always create the world’s biggest pizza or the most expensive cocktail to create a splash on social media. But what’s the point of it? Does it taste good?
For one thing, people walking into fine dining or five-star hotel restaurants usually have certain expectations for the foods they are served. These places reach only a very small amount of people because of their price points. With Beef & Liberty, I have a much bigger audience and also a much more difficult one because they all have different perceptions. This is good as it forces me to think differently and take on new challenges. I want to grow as a chef. I have more flexibility and a greater range in terms of what I can do since getting out of the fine dining scene. There is little personalization about it (fine dining). It’s more about following guidelines and reading off the scripts. There is nothing wrong with that. But having been there for so many years, I am personally done with it.
I have known the owner of Beef & Liberty for a long time and I am also part of it (as a business partner). This means I am not an employee and my voice gets heard. So you can say it’s less about burgers, but more about the people behind the burger.
If you think about burgers, you think of obvious brands. But if you know about food, what these brands offer is not delicious. What they offer doesn’t do justice to burgers. So what we want to do is focus on this particular category and add quality to it, such as using grass-fed beef that is sustainable.
I’ve tried so many years to get two Michelin stars, and it never happened for whatever reason, so I had my shot at it. For me it’s a barometer of who you are. Hopefully when I’m in my own environment, they will look at me again. But, on the other hand, I just want to have fun now.