When I was a kid, our family had been running their restaurant for decades. The restaurant earned its fame in Sichuan’s capital city, Chengdu. And the chefs therein were highly respected among their contemporaries.
As a little boy, I always loved frolicking in the labyrinthine huge kitchen in the restaurant. I had such curiosity for everything there. The blazing flames on the stove, the misty steam permeating from the bamboo steamers, and all the vegetables flying from the chopping boards to the woks or pots in magical colors and shapes. So after my junior high school I started helping out in the kitchen from time to time, learning stuff bit by bit, before I finally took on the professional training to become a Sichuan chef.
I spent over three years practicing cutting skills before I was allowed to take it further. During those three years, all I could do was cutting different ingredients into all sizes and shapes. Tedious and mundane as it was, I learned so much through the experience that I could even cut potatoes to the finest slices blind-folded. And that was just the start of the odyssey of growing up to a master Sichuan chef.
Even after more than two decades of practicing and training as a Sichuan chef, I am still learning and being challenged every day. Many seemingly simple and fast-food-like Sichuan dishes in fact demand a multitude of steps of processing and preparing that take a significant amount of time. Most people don’t understand that, especially those who are not familiar with Sichuan cuisine. They just want their dishes served as fast as possible. Therefore we get a lot of pressure in the kitchen when it’s busy in the restaurant. But for me, personally, the quality and authenticity of the dishes I cook, is of paramount importance and I’d never give that up for a “faster” serving.