As one of the most misunderstood major cuisines in the world, Chinese cooking has for the most part been relegated to a common and unsophisticated position in America. This is rather regretful since Chinese cuisine has a very long history and has developed into a refined and complex cooking tradition. After decades of political isolation and turmoil, China is now more open and is beginning to be politically and economically active on the world stage. Consequently the American public is paying a lot more attention to Chinese food. So it is not surprising that this year the James Beard Foundation decided to select Chinese cooking as the theme of their annual fundraising gala and educational conference. Known as “Dumplings & Dynasties,” the three-day event will begin on November 13th with a sumptuous modern Chinese banquet, at the historical Edison Ballroom in New York, prepared by distinguished guest chefs from China, Hong Kong and North America. The foundation will then host a two-day educational conference at New York University featuring experts on food and food culture of China.
In this second post of a series I am looking at trends in modern Chinese cooking that will be showcased at the James Beard Foundation’s Gala Dinner entitled Dumplings and Dynasties.
The menu for the Gala dinner is an extraordinary presentation of modern movements of Chinese cuisine globally. In my email interview with the vice president of the James Beard Foundation, Mitchell Davis, he says, “When we are dealing with immigrant cuisines, we often forget that food evolves after immigrants leave. Our increasingly global world means that chefs from all over are exposed to trends in ingredients and techniques from just about everywhere… Rather than try to recreate an old tradition, we thought it would be more interesting to see where Chinese cuisine is today. I think the chefs and the menu will do just that.”
In her book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, Jennifer 8. Lee states that there are more Chinese restaurants in America than there are McDonalds, Burger Kings and Wendys combined. So why are there no outstanding Chinese restaurants in America?
Chinese American food is consistent, reliable, familiar and extremely boring. It has served the American public well and most Americans consider it comfort food. But when I yearn for good authentic Chinese food I usually end up at a small family-operated restaurant tucked away in Chinatown where the service is almost non-existent and the level of cleanliness leaves much to be desired.
Recently I conducted an email interview with Mitchell Davis, who is the vice president of the James Beard Foundation. The foundation in staging a three day fund raising event in New York including a Gala Dinner and Auction on November 13th, and a two-day culinary conference on November 14th and 15th. Known as Dumplings & Dynasties the event celebrates Chinese cuisine and culture. As promised, here is the full text of the interview.
What’d you do when an opportunity comes up to meet star Chinese chefs from all over the world, and work with them in a kitchen presenting a banquet? You jump at it. That was the offer a little over a month ago from a friend at the James Beard Foundation. They needed someone who spoke Mandarin to help escort and assist the chefs from China during their gala auction and conference. I immediately agreed to volunteer. After a full month of coordinating with the foundation, I finally spent four days with the chefs last week. What follows is the story of a journey through the world of star chefs that’s harrowing, entertaining, educational and, most of all, fun.