A new session of the Canton Fair will be held in Guangzhou in the middle of October, and Chef Mai Zhixiong will meet some of his “old friends” again at Yu Yue Heen during the fair.
Chef Mai [Photo provided to Newsgd.com]
With over 30 years experience cooking, Mai is now the Executive Chinese Chef at the renowned modern Chinese restaurant Yu Yue Heen located on the 71st floor of the IFC, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Zhujiang New Town. Yu Yue Heen has been a Michelin starred restaurant for two consecutive years now.
According to Chef Mai, Yu Yue Heen offers authentic Cantonese cuisine, very popular among not only local people, but also with foreigners, especially during the two Canton Fair sessions every year. “Two businesspeople who attend the Canton Fair regularly visit Yu Yue Heen when they are in Guangzhou. Every time, they ask for me to say ‘thank you’ in person and tell me that they really love the food, the roasted dishes and seafood in particular,” Chef Mai recalled a big smile.
Chef Mai (M) receives the Michelin Star award. [Photo provided to Newsgd.com]
For Mai, awards like a Michelin Star are important, because they are a recognition and reward for him and his team. “But the most important thing is that we as team make the best Cantonese cuisine for our customers,” Chef Mai said. That’s why he is extremely gratified and happy when he receives thanks from the diners. “Many regular customers will recommend our restaurant to their family and friends. I have friended some of them on WeChat.”
Over the years, Chef Mai has made it his mission to bring authentic Cantonese cuisine to more people from around the world. He believes the essence of Cantonese cuisine lies in keeping the original flavour of the ingredients. And his tip for enjoying the best out of a Cantonese dish is that it has to be served while it is still hot, only in this way can you savour the deliciousness to the greatest extent.
Chef Mai’s Cantonese dishes offer an elevated twist on the acclaimed local cuisine. “We have to keep the authenticity of the Cantonese cuisine while at the same time being innovative, to attract both regular and new customers, which is not easy.” According to Mai, one of the changes in Cantonese cuisine nowadays is the presentation. It has adopted the presentation of western cuisine, which is delicate and sophisticated, and has become more appealing to the gourmets. “Presentation matters, because people usually observe the food first, then they pay attention to the smell, the taste and other aspects,” Mai explained.
A special dish presented by Chef Mai. [Photo: Steven Yuen]
Chef Mai developed a fascination for cooking in childhood. Born and growing up in Jiangmen, he worked as a cook in a dozen cities around the country when he was young, including Shunde, a UNESCO ‘City of Gastronomy’.
Back in 2011 he heard from his friend that a new five-star hotel in Guangzhou was looking for a chef. Mai didn’t seriously fancy his chances at the outset, but wanted to give it a shot. To his surprise, he was offered the job right after the interview. He has now been working for the Four Seasons Hotel for seven years.
Author: Monica Liu
Editor: Simon Haywood