During his visit to New Zealand, we managed to get some time with Chef Alan Yu following a presentation to local farmers, where he showcased how venison can be cooked in Chinese cuisine.
Chef Yu was born into the restaurant trade. His family emigrated to the US in the mid-70s and set up two Chinese restaurants in Maryland. At age 14 Alan apprenticed in various western restaurants in neighbouring state Washington DC, gaining experience working in all the kitchen stations. At the same time, to fulfil his parents’ wishes he studied for and obtained a Masters in Computer Science at Maryland University.
Hard work and dedication to his culinary career paid off when Alan rose to the top position as Executive Chef at Michel Richard Citronelle in Washington DC. Then in 2001 he moved to Jean-Georges 66 in New York City. While there he became acquainted with Cervena venison, courtesy of Mountain River distribution partner D’Artagnan. Alan’s eyes opened up when he saw the D’Artagnan label during his factory visit exclaiming, “Hey I know that company. They supply all the good restaurants where I worked in the USA.”
In 2005 Alan was invited to work in a top restaurant in Hong Kong. The highlight of his time in Hong Kong was 2011 at 8 ½ Otto eMezzo BOMBANA when he helped Chef Umberto Bombana gain a third Michelin star. Then in 2012 Alan was entrusted as executive chef for the new 8 ½ Otto e Mezzo BOMBANA Shanghai, which was nominated for Asia's Best Restaurant of Miele Guide 2012 within just two months of opening.
Now, Alan Yu is the Executive Chef and owner of Le Rivage and Alan's Bistro in the Shanghai Bund area and Alan's Kitchen in Guangzhou. His next project is to open a pastry restaurant in Guangzhou.
Why did Alan choose to specialise in French cuisine? In his words, “Chinese cuisine is very traditional and takes a long time to master. There are no recipes so you have to work by feel to produce the dishes. Western cuisine is recipe based but the compelling attraction is the opportunity for creativity and experimentation.”
He says the restaurant business is tough. Restaurants are opening and closing all the time because the business is very sensitive to the economy. Alan splits his time 50/50 between Shanghai and Guangzhou. Having good staff is essential and he places a lot of faith in them. Alan learned this firsthand while partnering in a restaurant chain that built up to more than 60 units.
Chef Yu is a charismatic character and we are thrilled to have him as an ambassador for Mountain River Venison in China.