On the night of July 31, representatives from the Taiwan Chefs Federation visited Tampa and held the first culinary exchange between Taiwan and Tampa Bay at the Art Institute of Tampa. The Taiwanese visiting group were led by Chef Ho-Chin Chang, who serves three past Presidents of Taiwan and was responsible for many presidential and diplomatic feasts. The vice group leaders were Dr. Hui-Wen Hsia, Founder of Kai Ping Culinary School, and Chef Chien-Fa Shih, who has been called the “Kitchen God”. Chef Shih has won many international cooking competitions and was the culinary consultant for Director An Lee’s movie “Eat Drink Man Woman”. Other members of the team included Mr. Ying-Lang Huang, Chef Cheng-Chung Cheng, Mr. John Chang-Wei Hung, Dr. Howard Hao-Chun Hsia, Ms. Chin-Wei Wang, Chef Yu-Lin Chang, Mr. Tsung-Feng Hsiah, Chef Kenneth Guo and Ms. Yvonne Yu-Yu Wu. The visiting group encompassed every aspect of the food industry, such as master chefs, officials from culinary school, a master sommelier, restaurateurs, and food manufacturers.

The event was attended by culinary students of the Art Institute and local Taiwanese community. And reporters from several media were also in attendance. The master chefs did the cooking demonstrations and answered questions about Taiwanese cuisine and gave pointers of cooking skills and tricks of the trade.

“So what is Taiwanese style cuisine?” Dr. Hui-Wen Hsia, Founder of Kai Ping Culinary School, responded that Taiwanese cuisine evolves from eight major Chinese culinary styles and native Taiwanese dishes, with some Japanese influences. The fusion of these diverse culinary points of view resulted in the modern Taiwanese cuisine with its distinctive flavor profiles.

“And what is the point of view of Taiwanese cuisine?” Chef Ho-Chin Chang, President of Taiwan Chefs Federation and Group Leader, stated that, in contrast to traditional Chinese cuisine, Taiwanese cuisine is non-greasy, light and fresh tasting , with emphasis on natural ingredients and healthy eating. The distinctive Taiwanese flavor profile comes from liberal uses of various basils (especially the “nine story pagoda”), cilantro, scallion, fried red onion, fried garlic, chili pepper, fermented black bean paste, and peppercorn.

Chef Shih prepared three dishes, instead of the originally schedule one dish, in the 15 minutes allotted time. The Kitchen God finished all three in under 12 minutes while teaching the audience some eye-opening cooking techniques. Chef Shih demonstrated the famous “cherry blossom shrimp fried rice”, “three cup chicken”, and “cherry blossom shrimp peanut salad”. In addition, he also prepared the “smoked mullet roes” earlier.

Chef Zhang, the presidential chef, demonstrated the “braised pork feet”, a Taiwanese delicacy, and “spicy cucumber salad”. Chef Cheng, the gold medal winner and President of Taipei beef noodle association, demonstrated the famous “beef noodle soup” with detailed instructions of how to kick up the flavor of this seemingly simple dish.

In exchange, Chef Michael Lynch, senior culinary management instructor of the Art Institute of Tampa, along with his culinary students presented Floridian and Cuban dishes including fried devil’s blue crab, Florida avocado salad, paella, Cuban sandwich, and key lime pie. Sangria and Cuban coffee were served with the meal.

After dinner, Ms. Betty Hsiao of Taiwanese Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) presented plaque to the Art Institute, and Chef Lynch accepted on its behalf. Taiwan Chefs Federation President Chang also presented a plaque to Chef Lynch thanking him for his contribution and hospitality. Prize drawing followed. The prizes included cookbooks by Chef shih, CDs of Taiwanese music, and pins of Taiwan; and the grand prize was the cookbook signed by all members of the visiting group.

In closing, Chef Shih said that they can bring various Taiwanese dishes to Tampa to share with the expatriate Taiwanese and the new Tampa friends. The is one flavor they can’t bring here – the flavor of Taiwanese hospitality. He invited everyone to visit Taiwan in order to taste the most renowned Taiwanese flavor.

Article: Caroline Wei-Berk