Chef Zhenxiang Dong is a giant in the world of Chinese gastronomy with his famous Da Dong Roast Duck restaurants lauded as more than places to eat, but restaurants that provide a cultural experience.
Known as ‘Da Dong’ because of his towering stature, the chef is a tireless advocate for high-quality ingredients and the rich history of Chinese cuisine. We caught up with him to ask about his history, what inspired him to become a chef and what he can pass on to young chefs starting out in the industry today.
Beginning his career way back in 1981 at Beijing eateries Yanqiao Restaurant, Yansong Restaurant, and Tuanjiehu Roast Duck, chef Dong has a wealth of experience, talent and humility, all of which makes him a perfect mentor for those cutting their teeth in restaurant kitchens today.
History and innovation
Beijing Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant is considered to be one of the best fried Beijing duck restaurants in Beijing, the place attracts great attention among tourists and expats. The restaurant, which was brought to life about 30 years ago
Chef Dong has helped bring innovation to methods of preparing and cooking Peking duck. His dishes are often described as blending Chinese culinary traditions with modern international influences. The Da Dong chain’s cuisine has been recognised by respected best-restaurant lists such as the Michelin Guide and the Black Pearl Restaurant Guide.
The Design concept – “mass” and “niche”
Many people today refer to tempting dishes as works of art and chefs as artists. For Da Dong, this is not enough. Today’s artists pay more attention to self-expression, but Da Dong is not only an “artist” who has completed his personal artistic expression through dishes, but also a “designer” who solves problems.
Da Dong often uses the terms “popular” and “niche” to explain this issue. “Popular” means that the basic taste is good, and it must meet the aesthetic requirements of most diners for dishes. If you do something delicious, but look weird, your guests may not be willing to accept it. Conversely, the dishes are particularly good-looking, but they are strong on the outside and dry on the inside, the taste is not good, and the guests will not pay the bill. Therefore, the “popular” mentioned by Da Dong is like the foundation. After the foundation is built, the superstructure can be pursued. The things at the upper level are “niche” and pursue a high degree of art.
When many people mention the “popular and niche” aesthetics, they will naturally fall into a trap, as if the “popular” aesthetics are vulgar, but the “niche” aesthetics are easy to be high and low, and the left and right are not well balanced. In fact, the so-called public aesthetics, specific to food, is a basic judgment on taste and form, while the niche aesthetics is the part that adds lustre to the basic judgment. It may be the taste, it may be the raw material, it may be the shape of the dish, or it may be a kind of creativity. The two aesthetics never conflict, just a progressive relationship.
Instagram: @chefdadong @dadong_nxc
Restaurant web site: http://www.dadongdadong.com/
Restaurant address: 22A Dongsi 10th Alley, Beijing, China