Richard Chen has had an illustrious career, including when, during his time as executive chef at Wing Lei, a Chinese restaurant inside Wynn Las Vegas, he helped the restaurant win a Michelin star for two years running, making it the only Chinese restaurant in North America to have earned the honour.
Chen is known for his creative blending of Chinese and Western flavours. As a native Taiwanese, he says he is looking forward to letting people from around the world get a taste of traditional Taiwanese flavours in dishes when travelling on the Majestic Princess. dish finds out more...
What inspired you to become a chef?
My father is a chef so I was raised seeing him prepare delicious food. I followed in his footsteps but also wanted to take the Chinese food I grew up with to the next level, so I’ve been motivated by a combination of those two things.
Did you have a mentor? If so, who?
I didn’t have a mentor but always looked up to Charlie Trotter – back in the 80s he was probably the number one chef in Chicago. His cookbooks were so beautiful I wanted to eat every dish straight off the page. He held the highest standard in the culinary field service-wise and food-wise, which I always aspired to. In 2004, my restaurant was rated the number 10 restaurant in the world, one point behind Charlie’s, so you could say I always tried to achieve his level of calibre.
Who taught you to cook?
I learned a lot from my father but my time at the Culinary Institute in New York taught me the real basics of cooking. From day one, they told us that recipes are everywhere but true technique and skill isn’t. Once you have that basic foundation, you can pick up a cookbook and make anything happen.
What is your most memorable meal?
It would probably be the food I ate from street vendors when I came back to Asia last year – getting back to those authentic sources of flavour and style. The roots of cooking can often get lost from generation to generation, father to son, so the flavour starts to change. The root of the cooking method and the flavour are the most memorable parts for me. When I try something really good, I can remember it for years and recreate it without a recipe.
Tell us what it meant to you to receive at Michelin star at Wing Lei?
It’s so rewarding for all the hard work and long hours you put in, but overall the most gratifying thing is knowing you are hitting the highest level of consistency. That’s what a Michelin star restaurant is; consistent. It doesn’t matter if it’s a Chinese restaurant or a French one, you know it’s going to be incredible.
What attracted you to be a chef on the Majestic Princess?
Princess Cruises are all about creating memorable experiences for their guests and you can see when people are leaving the ship with huge smiles on their faces that their time on board has done that – they always want to stay longer. For me, that’s what it’s all about, customer service. You know your hard work has paid off when you see how happy you’ve made people and I get that time and time again on the Majestic Princess.
What can you tell us about life when you are on board?
My favourite thing to see on board is the guests in different parts of the ship enjoying themselves, racing from one thing to the next. You can really see and feel their excitement for what the Majestic Princess has to offer.
What can guests expect at Harmony?
Bang for your buck! You get a five-course Michelin-star meal, which is incredible value for quality food in a beautiful setting, with Harmony’s ocean views in the background. How many people get the chance to do that in their lifetime? For me, that’s a memorable experience.
What is your favourite dish to cook at Harmony?
I love cooking seafood and my favourite dish to prepare is the wok-friend lobster with XO sauce. I could eat it every day.
Will guests have an authentic Michelin star experience at Harmony?
Absolutely. When you dine at Harmony, you get a Michelin experience from the level of service to the consistent quality of the food. Guests are our one and only priority on board.
What tips do you have for people wanting to create beautiful dining experiences at home?
Don’t take shortcuts. Invest in quality, fresh products and take your time preparing them as you can always taste the difference. Have the table set up nicely before your guests arrive and think about the little details; the music, the wine, polished glasses and silverware. When everything looks good it makes everything taste better.
Fares for a 12-night cruise onboard Majestic Princess sailing roundtrip from Sydney to New Zealand departing 18 December 2018 start from NZD $2610 per person twin share. Conditions apply. See here for more details.