Since 2018 the “Michelin Guide” to the world’s most prestigious restaurants has been giving out stars to Taiwan’s restaurants in recognition of the quality of their culinary arts. This year three new two-starred restaurants and four one-starred restaurants were added to the “Michelin Red Book” raising the star count for Taiwanese restaurants to 24, not counting the 18 one-star restaurants also on its lists.
Last month Vincent Liu, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO)’s director general, hosted two of Taiwan’s outstanding chefs who prepared dishes at several events to demonstrate the quality of Taiwanese offerings and their creativity in using Georgia grown produce.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Economic Affairs is fully aware of the growing importance of the province’s food service sector, which has experienced “stable growth” over the past decade and generates more than $15 billion a year.
In published reports, the Ministry cites tourism to the island as a primary driver of the sector’s growth but also points to other factors such as the rise in consumer income, smaller average family size, a growing number of working women and the growth of e-commerce.
Michelin, which has been providing tires for cars since cars were first invented in the 19th century, has been listing restaurants since 1900 when it first published a guide of 399 pages containing information that was useful to drivers touring through French towns and cities.
At first the only restaurants listed were attached to hotels, but the marketing initiative for the tires became so successful with travelers that the company launched its rankings, which now cover restaurants in more than 25 countries.
The two Taiwanese chefs arrived in Atlanta on Aug. 26 and the very next day put on in the morning a demonstration lecture at the Atlanta Institute of Art. That evening they provided a dinner at Mr. Liu’s residence of green onion oil chicken, spice fried scallop, crispy prawns tossed in Wasabi Mayo, chrysanthemum tofu soup, fried garlic source infused filet mignon, chyiayi chicken over rice, Sun Moon Lake bubble tea and snowflake cake with mixed berry.
These savory dishes were only a warm up for the fare they provided to 450 guests at the “Taste of Taiwan” gala dinner the next day held at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North.
Before leaving Atlanta on their U.S. tour to Houston, Denver and Detroit, they told Global Atlanta that an important aspect of their preparation involves locally grown produce.
This fit in perfectly with the “Georgia Grown” initiative of the Georgia Department of Agriculture and drew the praise of Georgia Agricultural Commissioner Gary Black, who couldn’t help but notice that Georgia pecans had been substituted in their offerings for other brands of nuts the Taiwanese chefs usually depend upon.
Stone Hsu, the executive sous chef of the W Hotel in Taipei, said that the purpose of their visit was to introduce locally grown products into Taiwanese dishes. “The chefs job is to change the ingredients that fit with the Taiwanese style of cooking,” added Chef Stanley Lee.
Both chefs said that they were open to different culinary experiences, however, and weren’t opposed to trying fast foods like Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches. In Taiwan the fast food preferred by workers at lunchtime is the chyiayi chicken over rice.
Considered a fast food, the chyiayi chicken, the chefs said, nevertheless takes a longtime to cook if it is prepared correctly. “There’s really no right or wrong, no good or bad, it really depends on what situation you are in. The variety we see shows here tolerance in the society,” said Mr. Hsu of the American fast food scene.
The chefs offerings, however, were anything but fast food. Instead they were painstakingly prepared and revealing of Taiwan and Taiwanese culture.
For instance, the Sun Moon Lake bubble tea that accompanied desert is named after a prime tourist destination famous for its scenery and black tea. And the chrysanthemum tofu soup evokes the flower that symbolizes longevity and provides an opportunity for a chef to show off his cutting skills.
“These dishes aren’t just about the taste,” said Mr. Lee. “They are an art but not just for the mouth. They also are for the eyes. Professional chefs are making food into art so you can see the beauty of it and then enjoy the taste.”