I just returned from a press visit to Taipei, Taiwan. While I was there I did an interview with one of their most renowned chefs, Li Chao-Ming of the Gaia Hotel, Taipei. We met in his principal restaurant, Piacere. It is an all white room, floor, ceiling, walls and white tablecloths surrounded by white leather chairs. Amidst all this purity comes Chef Li Chao-Ming.
The Daily Meal: How did you get into cooking?
Chef Li Chao-Ming: My parents had to go out and work due to my family’s poor economic condition when I was little, and they therefore could not take care of the children. Thus, I had to cook food since I was little, while also taking care of my younger brothers and sisters. In the beginning, the foods that I prepared were not delicious, but then I gradually grew interested in cooking, and then began to feel passionate about cooking. When I reached high school, I had to work part-time, and I chose to work at a buffet where I could be in close contact with food. After I completed my studies, I immediately became involved in the catering industry to learn about culinary skills.
I worked part-time during my school years, helping at a conventional buffet, which was open to the public, where I began contact with catering cooking. However, in order to attain better culinary skills, after I was discharged from military service, I joined a Chinese cuisine restaurant to learn for 10 years, and then shifted to the hotel industry to enhance my culinary skills and administrative management after I had accumulated a certain level of basic skills. Therefore, I have 30 years of culinary experience to date.
How do you work with your suppliers?
I have established favorable partner relationships with the suppliers, where besides cultivating mutual trust and friendly relations, I also provide reasonable profit to the suppliers, so that the suppliers will provide the best food ingredients for us under the prerequisite of mutual benefit and profit, so that we are able to present the freshest and beautiful cuisines to the customers, thereby establishing better word-of-mouth for the hotel.
Since I often communicate with people in the same catering industry, we share with each other the suppliers that we have good collaborative relations with. Thus, we normally choose suppliers recommended by people in the same industry or friends most of the time. However, sometimes I also collect data on the internet in searches for suitable suppliers to work with when I need to find other food ingredients.
What are your plans for the future?
I am expected to participate in a culinary skill contest in Rotterdam, Netherlands in September 2016, to share with as well as observe and learn from chefs coming from around the world. I am also hoping to arrange a short-term trip overseas, to enhance my culinary skills by taking further learnings in various countries. I hope to open up the restaurant of my dreams in the future, allowing more people to enjoy gourmet cuisines.