Cooking Is All About Finding the Enjoyable Balance among Flavors and Textures

Lanshu Chen
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Recently named “Veuve Clicquot Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2014,”
the Taiwanese chef will receive her award at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants in Singapore on February 24.

by Coco Lavender

Lanshu Chen’s parents must be very proud. The Taiwanese-born chef of Le Moût restaurant, in Taiwan, has recently been named Veuve Clicquot Asia’s Best Female Chef for 2014, a prestigious award part of the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants (●www.theworlds50best.com/asia/en) program, voted by more than 200 industry experts from across all parts of Asia.

Who She Is
After completing her training at the Ferrandi School of Culinary Arts in Paris, Chen honed her craft working alongside some of France’s most celebrated chefs, including Pierre Hermé, and at Michelin-starred restaurants such as Les Ambassadeurs, Relais d’Auteuil, and Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in California.

Returning to her native Taiwan, Chen opened Le Moût (●No. 59, Cúnzhōng St, Xi District, Taichung City, Taiwan, +886 4 2375 3002, www.lemout.com) in 2008. Located in Taichung city, Le Moût is renowned for its uncompromising standards and innovative blend of classic and contemporary flavors. Applying the lessons learned from France’s masters of gastronomy, Chen has successfully adapted European concepts for Taiwanese diners.

By combining French culinary traditions with the local influences and ingredients she grew up with, Chen reveals both her mastery of authentic French cuisine and her ability to innovate. Her ever-changing menu is founded on classic cooking styles yet informed by her own heritage, creating a delicate cross-cultural fusion of flavors and textures.

Acknowledging the honor, Chen says, “As a chef who strives for perfection, I am truly thrilled to receive the Veuve Clicquot Asia’s Best Female Chef award from Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants. Growing up in Taiwan, food has always been an integral part of my heritage. From an early age I appreciated the pleasures that derive from preparing and sharing meals. It is a great privilege to have my work recognized by the respected industry experts who make up The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy. It is also a tremendous encouragement for our team and their uncompromising standards and dedication.”

The Veuve Clicquot Asia’s Best Female Chef award celebrates the work of an exceptional female chef whose cooking excites the toughest of critics. The award is inspired by the life and achievements of Madame Clicquot, who nearly 200 years ago set the standard for women in business. The winner reflects Madame Clicquot’s attributes of innovation, creativity, and determination.

“This award recognizes the commitment, creativity and talent of women in Asia’s restaurant industry, and Lanshu Chen is a hugely worthy recipient,” explains Veuve Clicquot President and CEO Jean-Marc Lacave.

How would you describe your own cooking style, Lanshu?
– “Ching” in Chinese means clear, undisturbed. My cooking philosophy is all about finding the enjoyable balance—or harmony—among flavors and textures. The essence of exceptional cuisine is defined by the balance among the ingredients. Balance is not to be taken as mediocre; it is the play of sour, sweet, spice, or aroma that will ultimately create a perfect medley of flavors, which is what we call the beauty of a dish.

What is the inspiration for your recipes and dishes?
– I’m inspired by everything that surrounds me. That includes street food, fine dining, Taiwanese and Western cuisines, and it extends to colors, pictures, and smells. Sometimes it is just a memory that sparks a creative spirit. I always carry a small notebook with me and write down what comes to me. It may be just some irrelevant descriptions of feelings about textures and flavors. It’s like a puzzle, and sooner or later I will find the essential piece that transfers the concept to a dish.

How will you continue to innovate in terms of new dishes at your restaurant?
– What I always take into account when I design a new menu is balance, from the visual presentation and flavors to the textures … it’s about incorporating all the details that connect a dish. French cuisine isn’t just about the food. It incorporates culture, processes, and emotion. That is what I experienced when I lived in Paris. People appreciate all of the finer details.

What is special about the ingredients indigenous to your country?
– There are a lot of local producers in Taiwan and local organic farms that provide exceptional quality. Apart from various kinds of vegetables, these organic farms also grow different varieties of edible flowers, which can be used in the presentation and to enhance the flavors, from sweet to mildly spicy tastes. Fish from northeast Taiwan is also very fresh. Local chickens, organic eggs, as well as fresh milk in Taiwan are also very good.

How does the food served in your restaurant reflect the personality of your country?
– In the French language of viticulture, “terroir” can be defined as the land that is part of Mother Nature and essential for growth. Elements such as sun, air, rain, soil, climate, and gradient produce different varieties from one harvest to another, which is why every vineyard has its own unique characteristics. When luxury products from around the world meet local delicacies, there is an instant spark. Whether it’s the freshly delivered Silkie hen’s egg, sweet baby carrots from an organic farm in Nantou, freshly plucked angelica sprouts, line-caught wild ama-dai [tilefish] from Taiwan’s northeastern coastline, black truffles from Périgord, far-flung Beluga caviar, or buttery wagyu beef … it is a sensational combination that belongs to Taiwan and can be indulged in only at Le Moût. With classic French touches, I create my own “haute cuisine” by fusing local produce with luxury ingredients from all over the world.

What do you think is the most important thing customers look for in a restaurant, besides the food?
– Courteous and gracious service. We also like to share the pleasure and passion that derives from food. Guests also expect well-appointed interiors, exquisite table settings, and exceptional gastronomy … all these elements need to converge to create lasting impressions.

Which cooking styles would you like to explore in the future that so far you have not?
– Fusing the essence of Chinese and French cuisines. This defines my personal style. I find it interesting to reinterpret Chinese cuisine through the logic of French haute cuisine. Chinese cuisine is so familiar to me, but it’s also very complicated. It may be my biggest challenge as a chef.

Chen will receive her award at Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards ceremony on February 24, 2014, in Singapore.

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