A three-star Michelin chef is going out for dinner. Chef Chan Yan-tak and his four work buddies push through plastic door flaps and squeeze into a fluorescent-lit, Cantonese diner in Kowloon, Hong Kong. The five middle-aged men keep their puffy winter jackets over their graphic tees to shield them from the city’s wet winter chill, but their cheeks redden as the whiskey gets flowing from the bottle kept for them on the shelf. Pictures of them hang on the wall near a bunch of plastic yellow tulips, and when another regular recognizes Chan, he comes over and greets him with a shot of rice wine.

Until Chan flashes his watch—a simple black timepiece with the goofy Michelin Man on its face—you would have no idea that this ragtag crew powers Lung King Heen, which in 2008 became the first Chinese restaurant in the world to receive three Michelin stars.

“A gift,” the 67-year-old executive chef says with his chest puffed out, mimicking the Michelin Man. “They don’t make them anymore.”

The Michelin Guide gave the watch to Chan when it bestowed haute cuisine’s ultimate accolade on his restaurant. Located on the fourth floor of the Four Seasons Hong Kong, it has held onto those stars tightly now for a decade.

By day, these guys polish the plaque—stoking the BBQ pit, wrestling with enormous woks, shuffling towers of bamboo dim sum steamers. But once the whites are hung up, they’re just your ordinary guys trying to make a living and get their kids through school. After a long day at work, Chan gnaws on fried pork and glances at the soap opera on TV. This is exactly what he likes. “Simple,” he says. “Very simple.”

In an age when chefs are lauded for their indomitable passion and commanding personalities—for the doppio zero flour and grandmotherly lore that supposedly sprinkled their heads as children and sowed the seeds of culinary genius—Chan and his crew are guffawing, plain spoken, back-slapping anomalies. They came to the job simply through economic necessity as adolescents, then inadvertently fell into a celebrity that doesn’t concern them. Like an arranged marriage, it’s a love that came to be, but wasn’t necessarily meant to.

“We’re not educated, we don’t get to choose.” says Chef Ling Yung-cheong, Chan’s second in command, who has worked with him for over 10 years. All around the table nod in agreement. “When you have very little education, you don’t have …read more

Source:: Time – World


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‘We’re Not Educated.’ The Untold Story of Lung King Heen, the World’s First Michelin Three-Star Chinese Restaurant

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