Chinese chefs and cooking competitions

Stephanie Yuen

With a Chinese cleaver in hand, Chef Mike Lee takes the centre stage.

Having worked in the food industry for quarter of a century, I’ve observed, participated and judged quite a few chefs competitions.  Interesting? They always are.  Inspiring? Definitely!  Fun? You bet!

            Just like the one I attended last month – CityTV Master Chefs Competition at Eat!FraserValley. The venue  - Tradex Exhibition Centre at Abbortsford - was nothing compared to BC Place or The Convention Centre downtown, but to my surprise, the layout, the atmosphere, the energy and the crowd’s response were so closed-knit, the rhythm was vibrant!

            While the chefs were busy getting nervous and taking turns to showcase their knifing skill and creative power, I had the chance to talk to a few in the audience and two Chinese chefs.  Sorry, didn’t get to taste the entries since no samplings were offered, so couldn’t be able to comment on any of them!

            A pair of sisters fromChilliwack: “These chefs can really cook! Look how good the platings are! Secret ingredients in a black box? 35 minutes time limit? We’ll be pacing around, jumping up and down not knowing where to start! Maybe we should go and take a few cooking lessons too! ”

            A lady with her boyfriend, while eating,“I brought so much, look, I need another bag! That’s why we have to sit down and take a break!  Wow, how cool is that to watch these professional chefs cook right in front of our eyes!”

            One older gentleman said to his son, “Where do they learn to cook like that! The food certainly looks pretty and yummy!”

            A couple young chaps were kind of disappointed, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we get to taste those deliciously looking dishes? Hey, we love to cook too! We should be one of the judges and have a chance to try the food!”

            Chef Mike Lee and Chef Sam Leung were the two competing Chinese chefs, not against each other, but aginst western chefs.  Both are members of BC Chefs Association and are currently cooking for two different Chinese seafood restaurants.  They were so composed and calm, they even joked a little bit before and after the competitions. To them, this was a great experience! “I’m happy just being part of the competition! Winning or not, not important!” They both agreed.

            I have waited a long time for this: Seeing Chinese chefs participating in main stream culinary events!  The bridge has been built; the gap has started to shrink. But most importantly, more and more ethnic chefs have taken a big stride – they have opened their kitchen doors to the others; ready and willing to step away from their comfort zones to embrace the world of culinary arts which should not be blocked by languages and ethnic backgrounds!

            Thanks to BC Chefs Association for reaching out to them, thanks to the organizer of Eat! Vancouver and Fraser Valleyfor setting up the competition, and to my friend Chef Clarence Ma, for making it a reality!  He’s the one in the background that has been working quietly but tenaciously as the chef ambassador to bring the Chinese chefs forward and leads them through into the welcoming hands of BC Chefs Association and even theCanadaChefs Association!

            I can foresee more and more chef meets to take place in Metro Vancouver – the famous food city in North American where ethnic cuisines are considered supreme, locally and globally; where chefs of all nationality and different culinary background share their ideas and plans to make the world a more delicious one!