This is no ordinary interview. It is a complete dining experience. As you learn more about Tony Chen, the Chinese master chef, you can actually visit his restaurant and order a delicious Chinese meal.
Our personality in a nutshell
More about Tony Chen
The connoisseurs of Chinese food in Dubai are unlikely to miss a visit to his cozy `Chinese Kitchen'. Tony Chen's chain of restaurants in Dubai, is the crowning glory of a long journey that began in Communist China with a ''stopover'' in the City of Joy, Calcutta.
An uphill task
For Tony Chen to start a Chinese restaurant in 1977 was an uphill task. During that time none of the supermarkets in Dubai were selling Chinese ingredients. "From noodles to sauces, everything had to be prepared by us," recalls Tony. Today the Chen family that includes six brothers and four sisters own three restaurants in UAE and two in Muscat. With two locations in Dubai, one at Al Wasl road, Jumeirah and the other at Khalid Bin Waleed Road, Bur Dubai, 'Chinese kitchen' today caters to a cross-section of nationalities. A new outlet has just opened in Sharjah at Al Mina road.
Settling in India
Tony's father being a landlord was forced to flee China when the Communists came to power. The family migrated to India and settled in Calcutta during the British rule. The Chen family thrived in that cultural potpourri with ease. "I am more of an Indian than Chinese. My life and beliefs are now rooted in India. China is a land where I have no memories to cherish," says Tony. He left his school to work and started as a cook in one of the restaurants. Today he has no regrets. He has worked as the chief cook at Inter Continental hotel, Delhi followed by a stint at the Taj International, Bombay. In 1977 he came to Dubai to help his elder brother Victor Chen in business.
Our Personality in a nut shell
|I enjoy my work b'coz|| I love people and food and there is no other place, other than a restaurant, where I get both.|
|Of course cooking and watching movies.|
|Philosophy in life||If you can do no good, do no harm.|
|I dislike||Wars and lies|
|My role model||My mother. After our father died she stood up with courage to bring us up.|
|Work ethics||No compromise on quality. Sticking to high standards makes for good business.|
|Favourite spots in Dubai||Safa Park for it is calm and cool.|
|Favourite cuisine||What a question! Of course, Chinese. It has so many different categories and blends.|
|Happiest Childhood memories||My father used to buy all us brothers the same dress, same shoes and same accessories.|
|To keep fit||I swim, go for casual walks and most importantly, I eat smart.|
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In a tete-a-tete with GoDubai, Tony Chen, like a true gastronomist gives an insight into the philosophies and various blends of this versatile cuisine.
Blending culture and food
The great Chinese philosopher Lao Zi once said, "Governing a nation is much like cooking a small fish." The importance that the Chinese impart to cooking cannot be better stated. The credit of elevating cooking from a menial job to the status of an art belongs to its great Chef masters. A true businessman, he knows that running a restaurant is not just serving good food. In this lucrative trade that deals with a multi-national clientele, to know your customer is equally important.
Your mood always influences your taste buds. Tony's motto, "Give your customers good food, they will bring good business" sounds quite familiar with Napoleon's famous saying, "Give my army good food and they will march well."
He blends the various cooking styles with the same practiced ease as he assimilates himself into the cultures of a foreign land. Chefs at the Chinese Kitchen are trained to modify dishes to suit the customers' taste buds.
Tradition takes a beating.
Chen admits that the original Chinese cuisine has taken a lot of beating due to the influence of other styles of cooking. "When an Indian asks for Chilly Chicken we know that what he means is Indian Chilly Chicken and not Chinese Chilly Chicken," says Tony. Likewise the concept of keeping ingredients like salt, pepper and sauce on the table has come from the American style. "We believe in making and serving food perfect with no need for additions."
Food and philosophy
Chinese philosophy and food are invariably intertwined. Chen can authentically narrate the significance of the simplest things like the length of a noodle or the use of chopsticks as one would narrate an Aesopien fable. "Noodles are made long because longer the noodles, longer will your life span be," explains Chen. Chen also gives some logical explanations for their special taste and liking towards all kinds of meat. "China is a country ravaged by some of the world's worst famines. So people had no choice but like and eat what they saw around them. The basic principal is that Chinese will eat any animal whose back faces the sun."
So also the different styles of Chinese cooking like Cantonese, Hunan, Szechwan, Manchurian, Peking etc., are all influenced by the specific regions they come from. Dishes from Southern China emphasise freshness and tenderness. Due to the cold weather, northern dishes are relatively oily and spicy. "Chinese food is all about mixing and matching. It is an art that places equal emphasis on the gourmet pleasures and hygienic aspects," says Chen.
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