Chinese battle French chefs on satellite TV

Updated: 2012-04-01 08:17

By Tiffany Tan (China Daily)

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 Chinese battle French chefs on satellite TV

Michelin-star Burgundy chefs compete with top Beijing chefs on reality TV show. Provided to China Daily

When French and Chinese chefs face off, who do you think will prevail? This is exactly what France Chef China wanted to find out.

The reality TV show, which will begin airing early summer on Chinese satellite television channel SETV, pits Michelin-star Burgundy chefs against top Beijing chefs.

Their mission: Prepare a six-course, home-style Chinese meal for VIP guests-cum-judges, including food critics and restaurateurs. That, anyway, was the original mission for the five nights of competition at the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel - until a Chinese chef angled for a different challenge. He wanted to prepare a French dinner instead.

"Are you brave enough to face a French chef in his area of expertise?" Olivier Viatour, the show's Belgian creator and co-producer, remembers asking Chen Qing from Kongyiji restaurant in Beijing.

"Of course," Chen had replied.

But in the world of reality TV, as avid viewers know, there is always a twist.

On France Chef China, it involves what Viatour calls a "black box" of ingredients, revealed just minutes before the chefs and their three assistants begin working. The teams take turns picking their meats, vegetables, seasonings - each of which only one team can use.

Imagine making dumplings without floor, a stir-fry without cooking oil or French pastry without milk. The chefs either must get very inventive with recipes or they scratch any plans already made.

"Olivier has been very naughty. He always wants to set up a trap for those top chefs," says Cheng Shihui, executive producer at LIC China media group and France Chef China's co-producer.

No wonder some of the dishes on French night tasted off, such as the salmon with yellow pepper chutney with clams and dill oil, as well as the roasted veal with potato espuma chicory and endives.

The show is the third in the France Chef series, which was first broadcast in 2011, pitting French against US chefs. This was followed by the French against the Belgians.

The first two competitions were presented in a single episode; now 52 are planned for the French-Chinese cook-offs, which will also involve chefs in Chengdu, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan.

"This is a more interesting competition because French and Chinese gastronomies are more varied and complex," Viatour says. "You cannot dream of a better match."

Chefs who lost in the Beijing contest are surely also dreaming of the rematch in France this summer.

(China Daily 04/01/2012 page15)