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Ingredients of success

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2014-03-09 10:54

Ingredients of success

A sweet finish: Macerated cherries and chocolate noir with toffee ice cream and honeycomb coconut crumb. Mike Peters / China Daily

Executive chef Nicholas Blair tweaks the way things are done in a venerable institution without losing its essential character. Mike Peters reports.

Nicholas Blair never has much trouble working up a new menu when he needs to. For starters, he says, there are about 200 vegetables to choose from in his culinary tool box.

Ingredients of success

Fish tale 

Ingredients of success

The duck's just the start of chef's broad Chinese menu 

The executive chef at the Fairmont Peace Hotel likes to joke about that with the senior Chinese chef at the hotel, Xu Cailong, who will be retiring this year after more than three decades supervising restaurant kitchens.

"Xu remembers there were about 10 basic vegetables to work with maybe a decade ago," says Blair, 40, the energetic Australian who came to Shanghai last summer. Blair points out the fifth-floor window at the grand view of the Bund beyond adding: "We get along great - we sit down and chat like two old men drinking tea in the park."

Respect for ingredients is a process, Blair says, opining that young chefs today don't look after ingredients the same way.

Blair learned the respect for food that keeps him looking for quality in every carrot from his mother, who taught him to cook at an early age, and from a lifetime preparing cuisine in fine hotel restaurants. The Melbourne native has worked in China for a total of five years, collecting "China Top 10 Restaurant" accolades at the Golden Pillow Awards of China Hotels in 2011 and 2012.

In fact, he has opened five restaurants and overseen banquet operations for a big hotel in Taipei, after gigs at the Botanical Melbourne and the Ritz-Carlton in Sydney. Somehow, for a culinary master who seems to have done it all, the game still seems fresh, especially here and now.

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