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Western chefs whip up new chances in Asia

中国日报网 2013-01-31 10:21

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An increasing number of Western chefs are looking to Asia to offset the dreary economies in the United States and Europe, but the recipe for Eastern success depends on more than simply exporting expertise.

"What works in New York does not necessarily work in Hong Kong," said Sandeep Sekhri, whose company, Dining Concepts, manages a stable of restaurants in the Chinese city and Macao that include ventures with Mario Batali and New York chef Michael White.

Last year, Batali opened a $3.2 million version of his famed New York family-style restaurant, Lupa, in Hong Kong's high-rent Central district.

Like its Manhattan counterpart, it offers dishes such as ricotta gnocchi with sausage and fennel, and veal-lined saltimbocca. But its glossy take on Roman trattoria fare makes for a higher-end ambience.

"People in Asia expect a higher comfort level. It needs to be a little bit more plush," said Sekhri, who is managing director of Dining Concepts and said that more Batali projects are in the pipeline.

With Asia's economies in better shape than those in the eurozone and the US, "someone who wouldn't speak to us three, four or five years ago is now much more willing to talk," said Sekhri of the so-called celebrity chefs.

The company, which last year posted gross annual revenue of $65 million, also boasts ventures with Michelin-starred chefs Sergi Arola from Spain and Australia's Greg Malouf.

"The bigger the names, the higher the expectations. We try to do a family-style trattoria with Lupa, but people compare us to a three (Michelin) star restaurant - which was totally not the price point or the idea."

Batali has also recently opened two restaurants at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore, where casino investments have helped lure the likes of French master Joel Robuchon, US-based Wolfgang Puck and Australia's Tetsuya Wakuda.

Even if the food is right, transplanting a chef into a new kitchen thousands of miles from home can be tricky. It is not just the menus that need to be adapted.

"In terms of having a new kitchen crew, that's a huge change for, say, a chef coming from New York," Sekhri said. "There are five different languages being spoken in the kitchen for a start."

The 28-year-old Vincent Lauria is head chef of IHM Group in Hong Kong, which operates a cluster of restaurants, including the Italian Linguini Fini in Central. He quit Batali's upscale Babbo restaurant in New York for an opportunity to work in Asia in 2009, before being approached by IHM.

"In New York it is so competitive and cutthroat. Everyone wants to be at the top, everyone wants your position. Here you have to look after people, nurture your staff as they get used to your recipes."

Questions:

1. Who is looking for new opportunities in Asia?

2. Which American celebrity chef opened a restaurant in Hong Kong?

3. What is the name of the restaurant?

Answers:

1. Western chefs.

2. Mario Batali.

3. Lupa.

(中国日报网英语点津 Helen 编辑)

About the broadcaster:

Nelly Min is an editor at China Daily with more than 10 years of experience as a newspaper editor and photographer. She has worked at major newspapers in the U.S., including the Los Angeles Times and the Detroit Free Press. She is also fluent in Korean.

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