As a foreigner in Guangdong, one can find cuisine from all corners of the world; even many Chinese restaurants offer the standard western options of spaghetti bolognaise or French toast. Within the abundance of Italian restaurants across the province, Il Ponte Italian in Gunagzhou’s Tianhe Hilton is the only Italian to offer traditional dishes…with a twist!
Head Chef Memo from Costa Rica brings his multi-cultural heritage to the kitchen to express his America, Italian and Latino background within his creative, culinary creations.
“The heart of the restaurant is Italian, with a lot of influences from what I know…I describe it as a chef table.”
A decision many foreign restaurants come to, is whether to localise the authentic flavours and appeal to a broader cliental. Memo’s multi-cultural background inclined him to adapt the flavours but he went one step further and also allows a Chinese influence as well.
“I don’t fight against the culture, I go along with it. The sauces are always very Italian, the tomato, the basil, these are things you cannot change.
95% of our customers are local Chinese…I just ask them, how do you want it? And I ask them the Chinese way or the Italian way? If it’s the Chinese way, I know it’s over-cooked.”
At 29 years-old memo delegates to 117 cooks and runs all 7 kitchens in the Tianhe Hilton, creating menus, cooking, as well as sourcing all the ingredients.
“75% of our ingredients are brought locally…in Guangzhou, when you know where to look, you can find great things.”
Not only does Memo incorporate Latin, American and Chinese flavours into the Italian dishes he also caters to Chinese dining etiquette. When six Chinese customers all want to share the same steak, share the same salad and carbonara, preparation and presentation is key!
“I have options that apply for Chinese, bigger options, that they can share with, it can be put in the middle and they can share.”
With seven different menus for customers to choose from, customers can choose their preferred style of cooking, from grilled, roasted to fried, as well as adjust the flavours of the dish and how it is served. This flexible approach to fine-dining has seen customers coming back for more, both foreign and Chinese. Patrons can also use a Groupon/Mei Tuan discount voucher and receive up to 70% of their bill!