Already accepted into the business in culinary arts program at Le Cordon Bleu in France, we invited Giacomo Li for a lunch at one of the best Italian restaurants in Beijing. Giacomo just turned 18 and graduated from Beijing No. 55 High School. When we spoke to him, his passion for food and cooking was tangible. When he was around ten years old he started watching his mother cook and from here a chef was born. His half Italian, half Chinese heritage also helped with his passion for food. Giacomo will start his adventure in Paris at the end of September, and to prepare him, we gave him a taste of some of the fine dishes Chef Nello Turco and Chef Joel Manchia have created at MIO, located inside the Four Seasons Hotel.
MIO is an award-winning Italian restaurant with an extravagant interior. The original twist of the culinary delights cooked for us made us wish we were 18 again starting culinary school and learning all the tricks of the trade. We sat in the private area for an exclusive lunch consisting of four courses. We started with a Panzanella Salad. This is a simple Tuscan salad, but these chefs have taken it to another level, by adding seared shrimp and smoked cod roe mayonnaise. The budding culinary student commented that the charcoaled part of the bread was phenomenal.
We then continued with a Black Garlic Lobster Piadina, a very original take on the Chinese jianbing prepared with Chinese, Mexican, and Italian influences. We were both wowed by this dish, and Giacomo thought it was very original and would never find this dish anywhere else. He said, “if I could cook something like this I would be very pleased with myself.” We then ate Giacomo’s favorite dish of the lunch, an Iberico Pork Neck with Radish. The pork was so soft and juicy, and it was hard to imagine that this was the neck of a pig. We all savored this plate without saying a word, which means it was the star of the lunch.
The dessert was also a best seller of the restaurant, a Chuao Milk Layered Chocolate Cake with Sea Salt Ice Cream and a generous portion of truffle shavings. Chef Nello Turco and Chef Joel Manchia join us while Giacomo eats his dessert and speak with the eager teenager about life in the kitchen.
Following the meal, we set off for a tour of the kitchen and Chef Turco explained how things were set up in hotels, and what kind of cool cooking gadgets they get to work with. The chefs at the hotel then offered Giacomo an internship with the restaurant before he starts school in the fall, which could be just the ticket to set him apart from the other culinary students in Paris. It’s easy to see that life in the kitchen is hard and the hours are very long. This is not a career choice easily made, especially as Giacomo tells me that becoming a chef is a profession that is a bit frowned upon in Chinese society. For him, to be able to follow his passion in Paris is a dream come true, and we can’t wait to see where this journey takes him.
Photos: Uni You
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