FOURty Seconds with André Chiang

17 Jun 2016
4 min read
Ahead of his visit to London to cook at Lyle’s London with James Lowe, FOUR speaks exclusively to top chef André Chiang to see what we can expect from his Octophilosophy…

What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?

Well I grew up within a family of artists, but my mum was a chef so I developed an interest in food from an early age. What really sparked my interest however was growing up next to a night market next to where I lived in Taiwan. Everyday I passed through the night market to get to my house and I would deliberately get off the train two stops earlier so that I could taste all the different foods on my way home.

What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?

The biggest inspiration for cooking is what I talk about in ‘Octophilosophy’. It changed my approach to food completely. The eight elements that represent eight different dishes completely changed the way I cook and create.

Can you explain a bit more about this ‘Octophilosophy’ concept?

Eight different elements represent eight different dishes, or approaches to cooking. There is ‘Pure’ which is where we produce flavour without seasoning, ‘Artisan’ where we use heritage produce, ‘Memory’ involves creating atimeless dish, ‘Salt’ is the dish that uses seasoning to draw out the best in ingredients, ‘South’ celebrates France, ‘Terroir’ explores gifts from the land, ‘Texture’ is a dish that allowsplay and tactility, and ‘Unique’ is a dish created using a combination of ingredients

Will the guests that come to your restaurant know about this concept or do they have to learn about it to understand the creations?

Some already know about it and for the others it will be explained because they wont get a menu. They will simply get a card with the eight words and each dish is inspired by one of the concepts behind them. For example ‘Artisan’ is not solely created by me. It is created by the farmer of the artisan produce and prepared according to what he/she thinks is best. This could be steamed, boiled, with added miso etc. We want to execute it the way the artisan wants it to be produced.

How did this ‘Octophilosophy’ translate onto the pages of your newly released book of the same title?

The eight elements in the book are documented by what dishes we have created, according to the concepts, over the last 365 days.

Did you create a new recipe for every day of the last 365?

During the last 365 we created about 130-160 recipes. This means a new recipe almost every second day.

What are you favourite ingredients?

This is hard but probably anything with a salty element like soy sauce, olives, anchovy, fish sauce, ham.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?

I would say to myself to not have doubt in myself. The Asians can cook French too!

Do you think this was an issue in the beginning when you first went to France to cook?

Yes I think so. It was not difficult to convince other people but it was difficult to convince myself. Because when I was younger I couldn’t say to myself one day you will be teaching the French how to cook French cuisine. It is something that you dint believe is possible until it happens, so you doubt yourself.

You are due to appear as a guest chef at Lyle’s London. How did you meet James Lowe? Do you have much in common with him as a chef?

We first met when we were both at Cook it Raw. We are both very spontaneous but have very different styles. I have a French style and he uses British, local, honest flavours. We actually have lots in common especially in regards to how we produce the food we create. When we were at Cook it Raw we were both interested in hunting, foraging, learning from the locals to ensure we cook the produce properly. We are both very comfortable to adapting in different situations and environment. It was very organic for us to work together and come up with new.

Can you tell us what you will be cooking at Lyle’s?

Well James is very good at pork so I am going to cook pork. We are going to be using a lot of British ingredients like peas, beans and I will cook something completely different to what I usually do in my restaurant. I try to cook something different in every new place by interpreting the chef I am working with…so at Lyle’s it will be pork, beans and a banoffee pie!

Have you got any other projects lined up?

We are currently on the world tour. We are promoting the book around the world until October, which will take up most of the year before Christmas. In October it will be our 6-year anniversary ofRestaurant André

During the world tour will you be doing cooking events with all the chefs you visit?

Yes on almost every stop we like to do cooking events with colleagues. We also like to try and do other activities such as art exhibitions with local artists to talk about creativity. We also speeches and demo’s at cooking schools and book signing.

What is your guilty pleasure?

A midnight-hotpot-supper. Like a traditional Asian steamboat with a broth, meat and dumpling,

What restaurant is currently at the top of your list to dine at?

Hajime in Osaka. We are long time friends and I’ve never been to his restaurant even though we have spent a lot of time together. We share a lot of things in common and he is very philosophical which I really like. I like the way he thinks about his food and he has a lot of imagination. He is a very cool guy.

André and James will be cooking a collaborative dinner with dishes representing the culinary philosophy behind both Restaurant André and Lyle’s.Tickets for the dinner will be going on sale in June ontheguestseries.comsostay tuned for social media updates to find out which date and time tickets are going live.

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