I’m thrilled and amazed to be nominated in two categories this year! Every Grain of Rice: Simple Chinese Home Cooking is on the shortlist for international cookbooks, and my Lucky Peach article ‘Dick Soup’ (one of the pieces I’ve enjoyed writing most!) is shortlisted in the ‘Personal Essay’ section, alongside pieces by two fantastic writers, Elizabeth Gilbert and Gabrielle Hamilton. You can read the full shortlist here.
I spent a few days in New York for the James Beard Foundation Awards – a wonderful trip, as you can see from the photo! (Here‘s a link to the relevant article in Lucky Peach.) It was fantastic to run into so many good friends, and the weather was New York at its shining, brilliant best.
Foodwise: delicious crisp tofu and bulgogi beef sliders at a newish Korean place, Danji; an utterly perfect, simple lunch at the Gramercy Tavern; and a lavish, dreamlike brunch for Daniel Boulud’s 20th New York anniversary. Oh, and I cooked a Sichuanese feast for the friends who put me up, with fresh produce from Chinatown. (And apart from the food, it would almost be worth going to New York
just to have another look at the portrait of Sir Thomas More by Hans Holbein in the Frick Collection.)
Totally thrilled to be nominated for a James Beard journalism award for my piece in the Chinatown issue of Lucky Peach!
My piece about this unusual event is in this weekend’s Financial Times Magazine here. Since that memorable evening, I’ve noticed myself on a few occasions unconsciously sucking my cutlery, just to see what it tastes like… One intriguing question that I didn’t have space to explore in the article is why we are sensitive to the tastes of different metals: could it be so that we can avoid those that are harmful, and are drawn to those that we need for our health? Zoe Laughlin told me she had noted that ‘men of a certain age’ have a penchant for copper; while Mark Miodownik cited a recent study backing up the suggestion that zinc, taken with Vitamin C, can help to stave off a cold. ‘Perhaps, instead of shelling out fortunes on mineral supplements,’ he said, ‘We could just stir our hot lemon juice and honey with a zinc-coated spoon.’ You can find out more about the materials adventures of Zoe, Mark and their colleagues here, at the Institute of Making.
P.S. My article about a cheese-tasting in Shaoxing (which appeared in the FT last year) won the James Beard Foundation Journalism Award for Food Culture and Travel on Friday night! Thrilled!
At the conference today I received a Hunanese government award for contributions to the internationalisation of Hunan cuisine! It was worth getting up at what seemed like ungodly hour, after a jetlagged and somewhat sleepless night. The hall was packed with about 300 delegates, and I was the only Westerner – a weird throwback to my early days in China. Awards in the international category were also given to my friend and colleague, Bashan/Barshu owner Shao Wei; Peng Tieh-cheng, son of Peng Chang-kuei; and Susur Lee. And there were also awards for local chefs and restaurants. Shao Wei and I spent the rest of the morning doing interviews with local media (I think we may be on TV tonight!), and then I had to give a brief talk after lunch. A bit nightmarish having to speak in Chinese before such a crowd, but it seemed to go OK, and I managed to entertain them with tales of persuading Westerners to love eating preserved duck eggs and rubbery things!
A belated post to say that Sharks’ Fin and Sichuan Pepper won the Kate Whiteman Award for Work on Food and Travel at the Guild of Food Writers’ Awards last week. I will try to post a picture of the trophy, a glass vase engraved with the Guild’s Logo, my name and the date, sometime soon.
Awards, Chefs, Chinese restaurants, Hong Kong, Restaurants / 1 Comment
Some time ago I wrote a piece for the Financial Times about the Michelin Guide’s awarding of its maximum accolade, three stars, to a Chinese restaurant, for the first time. While researching the article, I interviewed the director of the Michelin Guides, Jean-Luc Naret, on the controversy over whether one could judge Chinese and Western restaurants by the same criteria. Since I spoke to him, I’ve had one more niggling question, which is: with most Chinese restaurants, you really need to go with a large group to see what they can do, so aren’t they at a disadvantage when the judging is done by lone Michelin inspectors on repeated visits? Perhaps the inspectors don’t go alone, but it’s hard to imagine that their expenses budget would cover repeated visits with a party of people. If you visit a typical high-end Chinese restaurant alone, or with one dining companion, you are likely to be able to try only a few dishes, and to miss the excitement that comes from a really well-planned and diverse dinner for a group, which can be a kind of showcase for different cooking methods. In general, it is international hotels with Chinese restaurants that offer something equivalent to a Western tasting menu: could this explain the much-criticised focus on hotel restaurants in the inaugural Michelin Guide to Hong Kong and Macau? Hmm…
On Monday night I went to the awards ceremony for Restaurant magazine’s annual survey of the ‘World’s Fifty Best Restaurants’. Predictably, and I think deservedly, El Bulli took the top spot for the fourth year running, and Ferran Adria and his brother Albert were there to receive the award. But once again the only Chinese restaurant on the list was Hakkasan – in London! I’m a great fan of the dim sum at Hakkasan, and I love the design, but the best Chinese restaurant in the world?! Come on…