A History with The Garden Hotel
In 2012, Wen Sien was hired as the executive chef of Chinese food at the Garden Hotel. This was Wen Sien’s second time working at the hotel as he was hired back in 2003.
When Chef Wen returned to The Garden Hotel in 2012, he returned with a vast new knowledge of food from different regions. The Garden Hotel attracts numerous tourists from all over the world thanks to its unique location, history and culture. Chef Wen has thus been able to use The Garden Hotel as a platform to innovate Cantonese cuisine to appeal to its international visitors.
Where Tradition Meets Innovation
Chef Wen is known for his innovative take on traditional Cantonese cuisine. The chef says of his unique vision in the kitchen: “The innovation of Cantonese cuisine means getting effect as long as knowing rules and tricks”.
Speaking about his new generation of diners, Mr. Wen adds: “Eight years ago, the consumption level in Guangzhou was high, and the usual dish we made was abalone, shark’s fin and fish maw. Eight years later, guests have become more interested in new flavors and dishes. Subsequently, we need use tradition as a foundation for innovation.”
Chef Wen’s experiences working abroad has provided inspiration for his food innovation.
The Garden Hotel’s popular “Golden Soup” dish, for example, has been inspired by Chef Wen’s time in the Fujian Province. He refers to the cooking method of “sea food and poultry in casserole”. The soup is cooked using carrot oil extracted from carrot. The finished product is golden in color and fragrant in taste. The Golden Soup is enjoyed by guests of all ages.
As a chef, Chef Wen understands how to capture and present different flavors. In this area, he continues to expand and integrate his ideas in new ways.
The Essence of Cantonese Cuisine
It is often said that “people from different places have different cultures”. Chef Wen uses this philosophy as a foundation for his understanding of Cantonese cuisine. He adds: “It has to be tailored to the local context.”
The chef continues: “For example, the Ningbo people prefer light taste, the Wuhan people prefer the strong taste, and the Sichuan people prefer spicy taste…” Every time Chef Wen visits a city, he attempts to understand the local tastes and ingredients.
Take the “Braised Pork Chops”, for example. This dish uses a cooking method integral to Hunan cuisine. The flavor is a combination of spicy ribs and pickled vegetables in the northern mountains of Guangdong Province. The dish is often described by guests as “mouthwatering.”
Another example is the “Fried Beef with Cispy Garlic”. For this dish, Chef Wen deliberately selected white garlic from Jining, Shandong Province to be paired with Australian beef. This large garlic does not have the pungent taste of regular garlic but is instead soft and powdery. This choice not only increases the flavor and fragrance of the beef, but the white garlic can also be enjoyed as a side dish.
Adapting Foreign Tastes for Chinese Use
In the innovation of dishes, Chef Wen stresses the importance of “adapting foreign things for Chinese use”.
He clarifies: “In fact, many Chinese dishes can be done with some foreign cooking techniques or spices.”
The “Citronella Barbecued Pork” is a great example of this. Chef Wen combines citronella from Southeast Asia with the common barbecued pork of Cantonese cuisine. When presented in this unique way, the classic Cantonese dish is popular among many foreign guests.
Chef Wen explains: “Because they are able to taste the Cantonese style of the dish, and they don’t have to worry about the difference in taste.”
The Unique Placement of Taoyuan Restaurant
Taoyuan Restaurant is located on the third floor of Guangzhou Garden Hotel. It is renowned as one of the leading top-level Cantonese restaurants in the city and has a history of more than 31 years. The menu items range from classic Cantonese dishes to unique snacks. The delicate authenticity of each item is always appreciated by diners.
The interior of the restaurant is based on the background of the “Taking Oath in the Peach Garden” in the Three Kingdoms era. The design is fresh, elegant, and a tribute to traditional Chinese culture. Better still, the Taoyuan Restaurant has a stunning view of the entire front garden. There are also eight VIP rooms named after the history of the Three Kingdoms. VIP guests can choose to dine in the Daqiao, Xiaoqiao, Zhang Fei and Liu Bei rooms, among others. As the best representative Chinese restaurant in the city, Garden Hotel continues to present a number of classic Cantonese dishes and exquisite name points in ways that are novel, healthy and unique.
Always Striving Further
Chef Wen interacts with his guests face-to-face to ensure that his dishes meet their expectations. At the end of each day, Chef Wen leaves his working station and asks guests for their feedback. Chef Wen’s three strict daily requirements for himself are: a solid cooking foundation; an uninterrupted innovative inspiration, and “know the needs of the guests”.
Mr. Wen summarises his attitude to cooking when he says: “do more, and experience more.”
“For example, you only know how high the temperature of the oven is after experiencing it,” the chef explains. “When you put your hand 5 cm above the oven, you will be able to pull back in about 5s, which is 150°. But you have to experience it before you know it.”
Chef Wen finishes his chat with us with the following piece of advice: “If you want to be a chef, it is indispensable to be diligent, stay interested and keep learning. In this industry, we are never too old to learn.”