Interviews ZHOU MENGXIN: “I AM NOT IN FAVOR OF ARTIFICIAL MIXTURES”

Chef Zhou Mengxin is considered a “passionate cook. “Of Chinese origin, he has resided since 2017 in Igualada (Barcelona) and has been chosen among the 10 best chefs under 30 in the Iberian and Mediterranean region in the S.Pellegrino Young Chef contest.

Currently, Zhou Mengxin is the co-owner of the Somiatruites restaurant where he is also in charge of the stove. Ambitious and competitive with herself, the chef declares that she feels in love with the cuisine and culture of her native country but also with the Spanish one.

In this fourth edition of the contest for young chefs, he presents ‘La tortilla Schubert,’ a proposal where trout is the protagonist, and that pays tribute to his father and the Austrian composer, “family and piano, two great passions,” he explains.

Was it cooked at your parents’ house?

And it is still cooking! In Yunnan, there is a great tradition of culinary culture. From the knowledge of the product, at the time of the direct purchase to the peasants of the town, until the application of the ancestral techniques and recipes at the time of cooking. There is nothing you want more than those meals we make and share with your family.

Many of us talk about Chinese cuisine but we never really know what it is based on, can you explain it to us?

You would have to give me several days and several posts on your fantastic portal to really explain what Chinese cuisine is based on. It is difficult to summarize due to the immensity of the country and the diversity of climates, landscapes (and therefore, products) and even subcultures, each proud of its traditions. What we can assure is that it is an enormously rich and varied cuisine, always with the same common denominator, of respect and pride for the product and culture of the country.

When you arrived in Spain, did you try to merge the oriental techniques with those of our country?

I did not try to merge neither cultures nor techniques of both countries. From the conviction of respect for both, instead, I try to integrate and absorb all the new knowledge for me from my new state of adoption. I am not in favor of artificial mixtures, but of extolling the best products with maximum simplicity. However, if I can use some resource, some knowledge of my country of origin that can help to improve my work on time, I will not hesitate to do so.

It is the first time that you introduce yourself to S.Pellegrino Young Chef, but you work hand in hand with David Andrés, winner of several editions. Is it a challenge to put you in front of this contest?

My relationship with David should be considered simply an anecdote and should not interfere in any way with my contest.

Indeed, I am currently in charge of the Somiatruites de Igualada restaurant that works with total family collaboration. But my current presence in Spain is due to the opportunity given to me as a cooking student at Peking University, to represent China in several international competitions. The prize for the winner was a series of stages for several excellent Spanish restaurants that served enormous learning for me.

I am evident that it is not a competition against other chefs, but that it is a challenge of self-imposition to present my concept of cooking to the prestigious chefs that will make up the jury, and the possibility of sharing moments with fellow professionals from different countries.

How is your dish going to be?

My dish I want to be a reflection of my way of working in the kitchen. I will try to make it a clean, elegant fare, with the minimum of products, and I will try to respect them to the maximum with only some contribution that helps me to strengthen the main protagonist.

What do you intend to represent with your elaboration?

Following the rules of the contest, I had chosen a local product that reminds me of family experiences in my country, such as when my father had to choose a river fish. In this case, it will be a wild trout of the Pyrenees, which I will work on by potentiating it with only two more products, some herbs from the Pyrenees and a typical ingredient of my country such as soy. It is a sophisticated, versatile and even magical product that, together with its healthy and nutritional properties, I will try to work according to the methods used in China 250 years before Christ, from fresh, semi-fermented and long-fermented soybeans, which I will help give the dish a variety of flavors and intensities.

How will you try to surprise the demanding jury composed of Fina Puigdevall, Lucía Freitas or Henrique Sa Pessoa, among others?

I honestly don’t want to surprise anyone, basically because this level of chefs has a tremendous amount of information, knowledge, and experience. I intend to present a work that reflects my personality to the fullest and achieve a taste and presentation balance that you only like, which will not be a small thing.

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