A woman’s touch
High Life catches up with two of Asia’s most accomplished female chefs to find out what makes them tick.
Ask any chef dedicated to their work about their job and chances are they will tell you how tough it is to be in the food and beverage industry. More often than not, long hours in the kitchen can be stressful and for a woman who has a family to take care of, it can be even worse.
That’s why the achievements of two of the most accomplished ladies in the field of food and beverage, Chef Lanshu Chen and Chef Margarita Forés, are all the more impressive.
Topping the 2014 Asia’s 50 Best Female Chef list, Chef Lanshu started her career under the guidance of world-class chefs in France and the US before opening her own French restaurant in Taichung, Taiwan in 2008.
Named 2016 Asia’s 50 Best Female Chef, Chef Margarita runs a variety of restaurants which serve Italian cuisine, using predominantly organic ingredients. Having worked in catering before launching the chain Cibo as well as several individual restaurants, she also went to Italy to undertake intensive training in both Italian cuisine and language.
For Lanshu, she does not consider herself any different than a male chef and found ways to manage the situation even after giving birth to her child.
“I don’t see myself different than a man who works in the kitchen,” she explains. “Yes, there are times when items are too heavy, but my solution is to just carry half of them at a time, not all at once.
“When I was having my baby, I trusted my team to take care of the daily operations of the restaurant. I always make sure I train them well, so that they perform under any circumstances.”
Unlike Lanshu, whose son is still young, Margarita’s son is already in his 20s and fully understands her responsibility in the kitchen.
“As chefs, we love what we do and we are used to the long hours that come with it – it does not feel like work all the time. When I can take care of my guests and serve people, it gives me a lot of joy and my son supports me because he knows this makes me happy,” says Margarita.
At a pop-up lunch event inside Wynn Palace’s Andrea’s, the two ladies work side by side in the kitchen. Even though their backgrounds are not the same, both observe elements that they admire about one other.
“I am self-taught, so when I see Lanshu working, it is an amazing sight. She is so systematic. Great organizational skills,” says Margarita.
Lanshu comments, “Margarita is an extremely confident lady and you can feel it in the kitchen. She is always in control of everything.”
Proud of where they come from, Lanshu and Margarita both express the ingredient they feel most passionate about from their homeland.
“I think Taiwanese produce gives a very earthy taste and is full of energy, so I just translate what is given from nature to the plate,” Lanshu explains.
“The Philippines has a lot of great products, such as the Black heirloom Cordillera rice that I use for the dessert today,” Margarita chimes in. “The quality is superb. As I travel I also promote this ingredient and others to people from around the world.”