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Yanqi Lake entices chef wannabes for a day in the kitchen

By Mike Peters | China Daily | Updated: 2016-01-22 08:33

Like most Beijingers, I've heard lots about the Sunrise Hotel at Yanqi Lake. But I never had a chance to see the facility that was built to host last year's APEC summit of world leaders - until an invitation came to join a cooking class there. It was an easy win-win for me to say yes.

First there was a hotel tour - there are two hotels, actually, including the stunning and already famous oval architecture at the east end of the lake. The staff patiently answered our insightful questions ("Where is Mr Putin's room?") before taking us to the open kitchen where chef Ivan Li and his team awaited us.

I was the only male in the class of about 10 - except for Li and executive pastry chef Cord H. Bredemeyer. Our group of wannabes - freshly black-aproned and paper-toqued - gathered around the two chefs and their kitchen teams as they walked us through the preparation of three dishes.

The first two preparations, directed by Li, were dishes we could make at home with a little ambition - both designed to wow dinner guests, particularly the pan-seared foie gras with balsamic reduction.

We got two tips right away: Since we were going to serve the goose liver on top of fried apple rings, Li prepared a bowl of lemon water: A short soaking of the apple slices would keep them fresh and hold their color. (A bath with a splash of white vinegar in the water works just as well, Li says.)

The second tip: Butter is good. While olive oil is the chefs' choice for high-temperature cooking (butter burns quickly), Li showed us how to have it both ways: Start frying the foie gras on high heat in olive oil, then turn down the fire and add butter to the pan to impart its rich flavor.

"Do the same thing with pasta - add butter at the end of the cooking," chimes in Bredemeyer.

Li notes that liver can taste fatty after cooking, a sensation he cuts by preparing the foie gras with balsamic vinegar and serving it with bitter-edged arugula on the side.

After several members of the group duplicated Li's preparations, they stepped out of the kitchen and the rest of us washed up to cook steaks.

We peeled asparagus stalks. Cooked a demiglace (after rehearsing the proper pronounciation: deh-mee glahs), sauteeing shallots before adding some dry red wine and prepared broth and reducing that by half before adding parsley, salt and - of course - butter at the end. Marinated the Australian Angus filet with salt, pepper and garlic, then flash-fried the beef to seal in the juices before broiling it.

Our final course was a bigger adventure, as its name suggests: Mille feuille of bitter and white couverture mousse on mango-papaya mirror.


Couverture is not the chocolate most of use at home - it's made with cocoa butter and chocolate liqueur. It requires "tempering" - an elaborate beating process on a flat surface - to keep its brown color and make it shiny. (Compound chocolate, commonly used in home cooking, is made from cocoa powder instead of cocoa butter, and it's easier to handle and to heat.) The process was fascinating, but required more professional equipment than most of us would have at home. A fun session for a gang of foodies, though.

By late afternoon we were at the restaurant dining table, getting our fill of all three dishes.

The Kempinski-operated Sunrise Hotel hopes its new cooking series will attract guests - like me - who will make a weekend visit to see the much-talked-about hotel and have a little culinary fun, too. Upcoming classes for adults, including four-course set menu meal, are 488 yuan ($74) per person: Chinese New Year specialties (Jan 30), healthy set menu (Feb 27) and vegetarian dishes (March 19). Classes for kids (188 yuan) include fancy doughnuts and cupcakes (Feb 20), healthy breakfast (March 5), authentic Italian pizza (March 12) and Easter cookies and cakes (March 26). For information and reservations, call 010-6961-8888, Ext 3852.

 Yanqi Lake entices chef wannabes for a day in the kitchen

Left: Australian beef filet with asparagus. Right: Pastry chef Cord H. Bredemeyer guides the cooking class to make Mille feuille of bitter and white couverture mousse on mangopapaya mirror at the Kempinskioperated Sunrise Hotel in Huairou district of Beijing. Photos Provided To China Daily

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