From fine din­ing to flip­ping burg­ers

China Daily European Weekly - - Life -

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.

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