Michelin-starred chef brings taste of home to Chinese students

By Angus McNeice in Cambridge | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-22 17:30

The United Kingdom's main university catering body has released a guide to authentic Chinese cuisine, potentially helping colleges around the country satisfy the growing number of Chinese students.

Michelin-starred chef brings taste of home to Chinese students


A chef prepares a meal at Cambridge University from a new cookbook aimed at college kitchens. [Angus Mcneice/China Daily] 

Under the direction of Michelin-starred chef and Chinese food expert Bill Brogan, the University Caterers Organisation compiled a list of 23 Chinese dishes that can be prepared in UK university kitchens. The organization hopes to better serve Chinese students, many of whom prepare meals at home in the hope of finding a taste of home.

"A lot of Chinese students will forgo university food and cook their own," said Brogan, who is head of catering at Cambridge University's St John's College. "I've found that while most Chinese people love Britain, they don't rate British food as highly. Now, UK university kitchens are trying to take on more and more real, authentic Chinese food."

As a young chef, Brogan cut his teeth on French food, earning a Michelin star at Le Talbooth in Dedham. His passion for Chinese food began in 2006 on a visit to the country, and Brogan returned many times after marrying a Chinese woman. The couple started taking people on food tours to several Chinese cities. In 2015, the University Caterers Organisation enlisted Brogan to lead a group of 15 university catering heads on a two-week tour of university kitchens in China, where they built up their knowledge on how best to feed the UK's significant Chinese student population.

The number of Chinese students in the UK far exceeds most countries and China is the only country sending a significantly increasing population of students, according to the UK Council for International Student Affairs. In 2016, 91,215 Chinese students were studying in the UK for higher education degrees. The number has increased annually by 1.8 percent since 2013.

Matthew White, director of catering at the University Caterers Organisation said: "China represents one of the UK's key international recruitment markets and TUCO believed it was important to improve collective understanding of the food, culture and university provision of a world superpower whose population is fast approaching 1.4 billion."

Offering dishes such as stir-fried duck strips with onion, and pumpkin with pork shoulder, the organization's cookbook offers easy-to-prepare dishes that are scalable, all based on recipes sourced from Chinese university kitchens. Brogan said modifications had to be made based on the availability of ingredients and specialist cooking equipment, as well as British tastes.

"We had to modify some of them, as some wouldn't quite work here," Brogan said. "Some of the ingredients would be difficult to get, and some of the British students wouldn't eat certain dishes. Chicken feet and that type of ingredient wouldn't go down well."

Like many UK university halls, St John's College doubles as a bed-and-breakfast in the summer, and Brogan's staff have undergone training in Chinese cooking to serve tourists on visits to Cambridge, a hugely popular destination for Chinese visitors to the UK.



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