What are your earliest memories of being interested in food?
I’ve loved to eat for as long as I can remember — I was a very round, Buddha-shaped baby. I remember my Po Po’s (maternal grandma) house in Queens in the early 80s (so I was 3 or 4) and the smells of steamed flounder and cucumbers stuffed with minced pork.
What would you say has inspired your cooking the most?
Home-cooked Chinese flavors, especially my mom’s. Historical Chinese cookbooks. Stories from relatives and friends about their favorite memories eating Chinese food. Fresh, tasty ingredients.
Describe how you see your own culinary style and how it has evolved over the years…
The culinary style at Fung Tu is unique, soulful and thoughtful. It took many, many years to develop an original voice with my cooking. To develop this voice, I chose to focus on the flavors that I grew up with; the flavors of my heritage, my culture.
As a younger cook, I worked on improving my craft by imitating the chefs that I worked for. That is what you are supposed to do — imitate to develop skill. After a working around for a while, I started to be able to have enough technique to start to realize the dishes in my head.
What are your most indispensable ingredients?
Ginger, garlic, scallion, dofu ru [fermented bean curd], soy sauce, garlic chives, dried favas, olive oil, sesame oil, star anise, bark cinnamon, dried chilies, Sichuan peppercorns, rice wine vinegar, amontillado sherry.
What kind of experience do you aim to give guests at the Fung Tu?
Our aim is to make people happy with tasty food and beverages, good service, and a comfortable, stylish ambiance.
What’s in store with the new Spring menu?
It’s all about Spring vegetables like rhubarb, fresh favas, nettles, ramps, morels, asparagus, peas colliding with Chinese ingredients like century eggs, fermented bean curd, ginger and fermented black beans.
What would you say has been the most memorable moment in your culinary career so far?
There have been many, many memorable moments, but if I have to choose — cooking for Ferran Adria at Fung Tu and hearing that he loved the shrimp paste with raw bok choy (he asked for seconds).
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self, starting out a career in the world of food?
You need to chill out. I’ve always been obsessive with food and cooking — I could stand to relax a bit.
What’s next for you?
I’m completely focused on Fung Tu, trying to make things better every day.
Find out more about Jonathan and Fung Tu here |fungtu.com