From Orlando to Shekou
2012-August-17 Source: Szdaily web edition
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Relocating to a foreign city can be an eye-opener, especially for a chef.

"I'm really amazed by the diverse cuisines in China. They're from different provinces and can be specific to a particular region," American Damon Edwards exclaimed in an interview with Shenzhen Daily. "In the United States, we have a lot of national food."

Until August last year, Edwards had been a head chef at a Hilton hotel in Orlando, Florida. He quit his job and moved to Shenzhen after his wife was hired by Shekou International School.

Barely two months had passed before he was offered the job of working as general manager of a Shekou bar and grill that specializes in barbecue and Tex-Mex.

Edwards said hearing about The Village Bar & Grill, which opened this spring in Old Shekou, and getting hired to lead its kitchen was a simple matter of networking.

"We have a community of expats in Shekou and everyone kind of knows everyone else," Edwards said.

Although he had never worked in a bar before, his experience with Hilton and his training at the cooking school Le Cordon Bleu all proved helpful when it came to running his own kitchen — on slow nights and in the middle of crowded chaos.

"I've learned to be calm even when we have to serve 20 tables at the same time," Edwards said.

An unexpected surprise came with the new job: complete freedom, he said, "with everything on the menu."

"At Hilton, we did what the business dictated," Edwards said, adding that the Village allows him to develop his unique blend of Southern comfort food and Texas barbecue.

He stresses a constant focus on details in his kitchen.

"I'm most worried about food quality … Cooking is about proper skills, common sense and a strong desire to cook correctly," he said. "I want the final products on the table to taste good."

To maintain standards and ensure everything is consistent with what he is doing, Edwards handpicked all eight of his chefs.

"I chose those who have worked in a foreign environment, enjoy learning, love to cook and have passion," he said.

Edwards' efforts were appreciated.

"We sometimes have to use Google to help with the translation, but he's really patient," said one of the chefs, surnamed Zhang. "In the past, we learned from a Chinese cook who was trained by a foreigner. Now we learn directly from a foreign cook."

Between the frenzy of supervising the kitchen's operation and training sessions, Edwards managed to find some time to learn to cook Chinese food. Hunan cuisine is his favorite.

"I like spicy, salty and hearty food," he confessed.

Which is why, not incidentally, he is so fond of hongshaorou (braised pork in brown sauce), his favorite dish.

Editor: Olivia
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