Round two with Dean Huang, exec chef of Super Star Asian
This is part two of my interview with Dean Hunag, exec chef of Super Star Asian. Part one of our conversation ran in this space yesterday.
What you'd like to see more of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: I'd like to see more chefs exchange their cooking styles with one another. I'd like to see a chef who makes French cuisine, for example, share their tips and secrets with, say, a Chinese chef. I hear that Matt Selby at Vesta Dipping Grill makes great sauces, so I'd like him to give me some pointers because I cook with a lot of different kinds of sauces, and perhaps I could share some of my Chinese cooking secrets with him, too. By sharing and exchanging tips, I believe we could all learn a few new things that could make the Denver culinary scene even better.
What you'd like to see less of in Denver/Boulder from a culinary standpoint: A lot less of the so-called Chinese food that really isn't authentic Chinese cooking -- like beef and broccoli, which misleads the public into thinking that it's real Chinese food, which it's not. I'll bet my chopsticks that you won't see a beef and broccoli dish anywhere in China, or even Asia. Compared to bigger cities like L.A., Denver Chinese restaurants are pretty average.
Rules of conduct in your kitchen: Be neat and clean. I always tell my staff that cleaning and putting things in their proper place are very important, because when it's our rush hour and chaotic, it makes things run much more smoothly when every person knows where all of the ingredients are. Keeping the kitchen clean should be the number-one priority for every kitchen, because only a clean kitchen can cook great food.
What's never in your kitchen? Cigarettes. Most Chinese chefs love to smoke, but I don't. Smoking can alter your tastebuds, and heavy smokers tend to lose the ability to taste after a while, and, as a chef, I never want that to happen, which is why I tell my staff that they can't smoke anywhere near the kitchen. You can smoke after you leave the restaurant or when you're not at work. Believe me, there's plenty of conflict with the smoking issue, and there have been many sous chefs that I would have liked to work with in the past, but they don't want to leave their cigarettes at home, so we end up not working together.
What's always in your kitchen? Oyster sauce, dry garlic and my carving knife, which I use to carve sculptures out of carrots and daikon. I marinate a lot of dishes with a touch of oyster sauce to give them a richer taste, and I use dry garlic in pretty much all of my dishes. I love cooking with garlic, because it's so wonderfully fragrant.
What's the best food- or kitchen-related gift you've been given? The white chef coat that I received when I won the International Master Chef competition for Chinese cuisine. I wear it every time I enter a cooking competition or challenge.