Original Intentions 初心 by André Chiang 江振誠

Things are coming full circle for André Chiang 江振誠, the Taiwanese-born French-trained chef extraordinaire who, after decades abroad, will finally get to showcase his cuisine at RAW, his new establishment (in partnership with Hasmore Ltd 赫士盟集團), set to open next November 19th, in Taipei.

The mission of RAW is to bring “The New Interpretation of Taiwanese Flavor” to your table by highlighting beautiful Taiwanese seasonal produce through innovative food and drink.

Expectations are high, but after reading his autobiography, 初心 (Original Intentions), readers could not expect otherwise, and can count on him to deliver on the mission of RAW. Hints of this new enterprise were palpable in his book, published last year, where he had expressed wishes to push Taiwan under the international culinary spotlight.

該怎麼清楚地介紹臺灣,點出我們的臺灣精神?這點經常讓我想破腦袋,還找不到最合適的答案。腦海中於是浮現一個想法,「希望有一天,我可以藉由自己的力量,讓更多外國人因爲我而認識臺灣。。。」(p.184)

How can I introduce Taiwan to my foreign friends? What captures the spirit of Taiwan? I thought about it long and hard, but never found an answer. Then, an idea came up, 「I dreamed of a day, where I could act as an intermediary through which foreign friends would get to know Taiwan…」”

(Pardon the butchered English translation, I am obviously not a translator 😉 )

I was already a little familiar with André Chiang from watching his TEDx Taipei talk, where in a soft-spoken and flawless English (his French is pas mal either), he shared his views on cooking and dining, as well as his trademarked octaphilosophy concept at restaurant André.

André Chiang is not a typical taiwanese, nor a typical French culinary chef. He’s taller than average with his 190cm (6″2) height, worked as a model in his youth, can talk his way in seven languages, went back to school to get his MBA, and is now regularly receiving accolades for his cooking.

The press writes a lot about his success, food bloggers rave about his cuisine, but very little is known about his past beyond the fact that he is Taiwanese and his lengthy apprenticeship in France. Interestingly so, despite his international following, he chose to write his autobiography in Chinese, maybe as a dedication to Taiwan, or simply to prepare his comeback to the motherland, where his name is still rather unknown to the general public.

Through his autobiography, we discover a mature child initiated to the pleasure of food thanks to his mom, a teenager already poised to become an exceptional chef and who preferred toiling away at all the top western fine dining restaurants in Taipei to absorb all the knowledge within his reach.

While a sous-chef at the Sherwood hotel, tasked with organizing a promotional event featuring a Michelin star chef, André Chiang successfully got the then 3-Michelin stars twin brothers Pourcel to come to Taipei. Because luck also comes with hard work, before leaving Taiwan, the brothers who saw something in André Chiang, took him apart and offered him the opportunity to come work in their kitchen in France. Without a beat, he answered yes, and as they say, the rest is history.

Taking him under their wings, the Pourcel brothers instilled in him the art of French cooking with accents from the south of France, entrusted him at the helm of their establishment, the famed Le Jardin des Sens, and paved a way for him to develop his entrepreneurial and creative chops by giving him free reign of the Pourcel twins’ expansion in Asia. Even after striking on his own, he keeps calling the twin brothers “Chef” as a sign of respect, and feels indefinitely indebted to them, a feeling often brought up in his book.

Today, in the same vein as his mentors, he is building a little food empire of his own. Last year, he co-invested in Burnt Ends, an Australian barbeque joint in Singapore, earlier this month, he inaugurated Porte 12, a bistro in Paris where the executive chef and front of the house manager both previously worked at restaurant André, and finally, the much awaited RAW in Taipei.

Taking notes from other renowned culinary chefs,  André Chiang has also setup his own farm, Racines 若心農場, in Taiwan. It currently supplies restaurant André, and will undoubtedly inspire the cuisine at RAW.

I started reading 初心 curious to learn more about  André Chiang, and I did, his writing was just as humble as his persona, but I also discovered someone with a great sense for detail, a high level of integrity, incredibly focused in whatever he does and wholly devoted to his craft.

早期有很多東西我無法接受,但只要法國人說「這東西好吃!」我就告訴我的大腦,「沒錯,這個東西是好吃的。」(p.134)

early on, there was a lot of food I wasn’t used to, but as long as the French thought 「This  tastes good!」I had to tell my brain 「Yes indeed, this thing tastes good」

Still, I remain intrigued as to what his food must taste like, especially at RAW, where he’ll be applying a bistro-like concept to showcase Taiwanese produce. Needless to say, I’m very looking forward for the opening of RAW and seeing how it will influence the evolution of Taiwan’s culinary scene.

More about André Chiang:

(last updated: 2015/05/27 一)

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3 thoughts on “Original Intentions 初心 by André Chiang 江振誠

  1. Thank you for this nice snapshot of the book. I too recently came in contact with the book and would love to see it translated! Would do a lot of good to anyone with a dream, and the amount of effort he put into pursuing is passion is quite incredible!

    Like

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 🙂
      And yes, the book ought to be translated at some point. He wrote so many nice things about his mentors, and they don’t even know it.

      Like

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