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  • Writer's pictureSasha Huang

Catching Up with Chef Cheng Kwok-Hung of Ya Ge, Mandarin Oriental Taipei

INTERVIEW



Mandarin Oriental, Taipei's signature restaurant Ya Ge is the home to Chef de Cuisine Cheng Kwok-Hung and his exquisite modern Cantonese cuisine. Born in 1979 in Hong Kong, the sous chef, who was promoted to chef de cuisine, found his passion in the kitchen while helping out in his family's Chinese restaurant in Edmonton, Canada. 25 years of culinary experience later, he now takes the helm of the Michelin-starred restaurant Ya Ge in Taiwan.

Chef Cheng takes inspiration from traditional recipes and local ingredients to present a carefully curated menu of gastronomic delights. Every aspect is meticulously considered, from the innovative presentation that bridges the gap between tradition and modernity to the interplay of textures within each dish and the harmonious blend of flavours across the courses. Here, Chef Cheng opens up about his culinary philosophies, aspirations, and unwavering passion for the culinary craft.





選用新鮮的澎湖龍蝦以高溫油炸鎖住水分後,將蔥、紅蔥頭、X.O醬、上湯與龍蝦一同大火燉煮後上桌,完整呈現龍蝦的鮮甜與彈牙


1. What does modern Cantonese cuisine mean to you?

I believe that modern Cantonese cuisine incorporates Western plating and cooking techniques into traditional Cantonese dishes, making them more refined and elegant. Despite changes in presentation, the flavors still retain the essence of traditional Cantonese cuisine.




2. How would you describe your culinary philosophy?

My culinary philosophy seeks to transcend tradition, offering a fresh interpretation of classic dishes imbued with a distinctive style, resulting in impeccably crafted, sophisticated, and elegant culinary creations. I like my cuisine to be fresh, light, and delicate, staying true to the original flavors of the ingredients. Each seemingly simple dish incorporates intricate techniques, including the importance of "wok hey" in stir-frying, precise timing, rich and flavorful broths that preserve the freshness of ingredients, and crispy and fragrant fried dishes. The sequence of courses and presentations are also meticulously considered in his creations.


將新鮮東星斑以鹽巴簡單抓醃後裹上脆漿過油輕炸,上頭搭配炸鴻喜菇。淋上將三星蔥與洋蔥入鍋油炸後,加入清雞湯燉煮逼出蔥香,再加上醬油、冰糖等煮三十分鐘至起泡稠化的蔥


"Stay focused, conduct thorough research, visit various places to personally experience authentic ingredients. Continually expand your knowledge and consistently strive for self-improvement and personal enrichment."

- Chef Cheng, Chef de Cuisine of Ya Ge




經典的港式點心鹹水角手捏製成精緻吸睛的水梨形,並在豬肉、蘿蔔乾與五香粉製成的內餡中拌入鮑魚丁

3. Can you walk us through your creative process when crafting a new dish or menu?

The process for creating new dishes involves visiting markets, observing, acquainting myself with various local and seasonal ingredients in order to craft innovative dishes. I also place a strong emphasis on the visual aesthetics of plating and frequently gathers inspiration online while delving deeper into the characteristics of seasonal ingredients.

4. Can you share with us your favourite local market/s when sourcing ingredients?

Some of my favorite local markets for sourcing ingredients include the Binjiang Market and the Addiction Aquatic Development, as these establishments consistently provide a diverse selection of distinctive and rare ingredients.

主廚選用日本鹿兒島A5和牛切成粒後炸至五分熟,使中心肉色呈現粉紅色後,淋上宮保醬汁並撒上蔥粒和炸過的腰果。底部搭配的鍋巴米餅是將糯米蒸煮、風乾後切成四方形油炸而成

5. What do you wish to bring to the culinary scene of Taiwan with Ya Ge?

In Taipei, traditional Cantonese cuisine has seen relatively little change. I hope to lead a new style through Ya Ge, pioneering the forefront of the culinary scene. By infusing creativity and innovation into the essence of authentic and classic Cantonese cuisine, along with elegant plating and the use of exquisite tableware to enhance visual aesthetics, I aim to create a distinctive, recognizable, and cross-temporal and cross-cultural modern cuisine.



鄭主廚將花膠罕見的以甜品呈現,選用肉質肥厚的龍眼乾,加上補氣、溫潤的紅棗燉煮三小時,再加入厚片的花膠一同燉煮一小時入味

"I hope to lead a new style through Ya Ge, pioneering the forefront of the culinary scene...... I aim to create a distinctive, recognizable, and cross-temporal and cross-cultural modern cuisine."

- Chef Cheng, Chef de Cuisine of Ya Ge



6. If you could give a piece of advice to yourself at the start of your culinary journey, what would it be?

"Stay focused, conduct thorough research, visit various places to personally experience authentic ingredients. Continually expand your knowledge and consistently strive for self-improvement and personal enrichment."

7. What do you wish your guests will take away from dining at Ya Ge?

I hope to provide Taipei diners with a unique dining experience. I like to be engaged with the guests and personally explain the stories and preparation processes behind the dishes to guests. The Ya Ge team also offers attentive and sincere service, aiming to make guests feel as comfortable as dining at home and creating the sensation of a personalized dining experience.



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All imagery is provided by Mandarin Oriental, Taipei.



Address: No. 158 Dunhua North Road, 10548 Taipei, Taiwan | Website: mandarinoriental.com/en/taipei/songshan/dine/ya-ge | Phone: +886 2 2715 6668 | Email: motpe-tage@mohg.com | Instagram: @mo_tpe | Facebook: @MandarinOrientalTaipeiTaiwan

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