Interview with Chefs Gallery owner Kaisern Ching
Kaisern Ching discusses his new Venue Specials menus offering plenty of old favourites along with a selection of new dishes to try…
Interview by Daria Kill-Smith – Images supplied
It is rare that a restaurateur would offer up praise of other eateries, but such is the generosity of Kaisern Ching, recently discussing the new Venue Specials menus at his chain of Chefs Gallery restaurants in Sydney.
Ching may be a globe-trotting foodie, but he allows his talented chefs freedom to contribute their creative ideas, using their experiences from working in similar-style restaurants, as well as their own cultural backgrounds.
Indeed, the Parramatta restaurant’s special menu has been strongly guided by the Korean head chef, bringing forth Korean-style Mac and Cheese – a dish created with rice cake, sambal and chilli flakes along with three types of European cheese. Then there’s the Korean Army Stew (curiously made with Spam and baked beans!). Mr Ching said this was actually a very traditional dish conceived during the Korean War, whereby American troops combined their rations with South Korean troops, and was traditionally served in a helmet! I have to admit, prior to hearing that gem of history, I would never have gone near Spam – but I’ve come around to the idea. Just. Brilliant.
Ching is a man who knows his customers, with a firm handle on demographics. Having a knowledge of the population base and familiarity with what is offered in each area allows the restaurateur to devise his menus around his customers. Speaking on his Hurstville restaurant, Mr Ching explained the demographic leans towards more traditional fare – for which this restaurant amply provides, as well as offering classics with a “twist”. This allows the less adventurous the opportunity to eat what they feel comfortable with, while at the same time being introduced to the different ingredients and preparation methods on show.
One slice of information Mr Ching affirmed: ‘diners know what they want, know what they like, and can discern good quality produce from bad’. His rock solid, regular customers attest to that. And the fact that they are willing to go the extra mile and try his new specials recognises the same. Case in point: Chefs Gallery Macquarie offers a dish comprised of long (bullhorn) chillies filled with ground pork and fish paste – a combination which at first thought may have been a risky twist on a traditional recipe, but which has been a surprising success for the restaurant, in fact one of their best sellers!
The Chefs Gallery chain prides itself on sourcing high-quality produce with an attention to preparation and detail, presenting the freshest and best of food, simply. The restaurants’ open-kitchen galleries are designed to entertain diners with the theatre of noodle-making – performance art at its best. Patrons can view dishes made to order – nothing to hide, here!
Most importantly, Mr Ching wants his regular clientele to know that their favourite dishes aren’t going anywhere. The venue-specific, special menu change – the biggest in seven years – works on an 80:20 basis. While 20% of the menu takes diners on a culinary adventure, 80% of the menu remains unchanged. Chefs Gallery regulars have nothing to fear!
And the generous praise to his rivals? Ching is a well-known ambassador for dim sim and won ton (if not one of the biggest influencers in this market), and recognises how the standard of dim sim and won ton has lifted over the years. Again, generously stating local restaurateurs are comparable to Asia now, a trend which has pushed the industry to become more creative and to come up with better products for the customer. This is exemplified by the quality of Chinese pastry elevating several notches in recent times, with chefs in Australia often trained in both Eastern and Western culinary skills. (Check out the recently open Chefs Pastry in Chippendale to confirm this tasty fact!).
Oh, and Melbourne, when Chefs Gallery arrives, I will be first at the door – but don’t tell anyone I told you!
**The Australia Times Gourmet News would like thank Kaisern Ching for his time in sharing valuable insights into Chefs Gallery restaurants, for readers of The Australia Times News.
**Thanks to Cardinal Spin (Genvin In), for arranging the interview and supplying the images courtesy of Chefs Gallery.
Connie Lambeth – The Australia Times News
Editor GOURMET – Food/Wine/Events
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