Zih-Yang Chen: “I am not representing myself but the environment and culture of Taiwan”

The young chef representing North East Asia talks to us in an interview exclusive, ahead of the exciting Grand Finale in May.

Zih-Yang Chen’s dish was named the best young chef in North East Asia when he took the local juries unanimous vote with his duck signature dish, Taste of Taiwan, in the local heat of S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018.

The chef from VG The Seafood Bar in Taipei, Taiwan will now have the chance to showcase the flavours of his country on the world stage when he represents the region at the Grand Finale in Milan in May 2018.

We found out more about this young talent as he prepares for the professional opportunity of a lifetime under the capable mentorship of chef Umberto Bombana.

Describe your signature dish….
The excellent ingredients of Taiwan inspired my signature dish, I have spent a lot of time searching for local ingredients with the best quality and thinking about how to interpret these ingredients. Therefore, instead of selecting the materials for the selected theme, I would get the best ingredients then spend time thinking about how to cook my signature dishes.

What made you become a chef?
I became a chef, because I really enjoy good food and I feel pleased with the sense of achievement I get when I cook for my family and friends. 

Who has influenced you in your career?
Tommy and Eric, the heads of VG, encouraged me a lot when I was a chef. They have always supported me in my goals. No matter whether it’s a competition or the operation of the restaurant, they have always been there. 

Where do you see yourself in 5/10 years’ time?
In the next 10 years I will help bring VG to develop in multiple countries, experimenting with a variety of different styles of cuisine and trying to combine cuisines from different locations. 

How are you/will you collaborate with your mentor, Umberto Bombana, in order to perfect your dish for the Grand Finale?
Chef Bombana is a great master of Italian cuisine I sincerely hope that I can learn more about the techniques of Italian dishes and use of the ingredients in the future. This will stimulate me to have more diverse combinations and ideas when I create new dishes. 

Zih-Yang Chen with mentor Umberto Bombana

What is the most exciting/challenging element of the S.Pellegrino Young Chef competition for you?
The most challenging part of this competition is that there is no limit with regards to what kind of cuisine you can to cook.  Each chef has provided his/her own unique dishes. It is not easy to decide the dish that stands out after the comparison. I think this is the most challenging part.

The most important part for participating in this competition is to communicate with other top tier chefs all over the world and learn from each other. This is the most attractive reason for me to join this competition. 

Why do you think you can win the S.Pellegrino Young Chef 2018 title?
Because I am not representing myself but the environment and culture of Taiwan. I hope I can tell chefs all over the world what kind of country Taiwan is. We have very good ingredients. We have many sophisticated cooking methods. I want to show everyone about these cooking methods and ingredients. So, I have to win to let everyone know more about us.

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
If I wasn’t a chef, I would be a professional artist. My hobby is drawing and design. 

What’s your most memorable food experience?
My most memorable food experience is a simple braised pork rice below my flat. Even though I have been eating it for 20 years, I still enjoy the taste and every time I feel so satisfied after finishing my meal. For cooking, it is not easy to make such a simple dish so delicious. That is why this dish is the most memorable for me.  

What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy having cocktails in a bar as making cocktails is like cooking, you combine different alcohol to create unexpected tastes and sensations, which can help my imagination about cooking. Beyond this, I also enjoy artwork. It can inspire my ideas when I present a dish. 

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