As he likes
He is stubborn. If a dish he makes doesn’t work with his patrons, Kelvin Cheung will remove it from the menu instead of changing it. For example, while designing the menu for the new Bandra resto-bar, One Street Over, where he was heading to the kitchen, Cheung wanted to make something with corn and shrimp, which is “very South American.” The Canadian-Chinese chef, who became popular in the Mumbai dining scene for creating a glamorous version of the main dish at the Colabar Ellipse, came up with an idea. He fried the cornbread with lemongrass. “It didn’t translate to the taste of the customers. I like it and I’ll use it on the menu, but not here, “said the 36-year-old.
As with any rule, there are exceptions – his father. “I cook for her, but not my style. She wants her food to be like hers. He does not like herbs or spices. So if I use these when cooking for her, I have to mask them, ”says Cheung, who is the idol of her restaurant father. “She has a pretty amazing story,” Chef says.
Elderly Cheung moved from Hong Kong to New York at the age of 18, with 20 in his pocket. He started working as a restaurant server in Chinatown, working his way up while studying business. “Hong Kong is counted among the top people serving Cantonese restaurants, today he owns eight restaurants and is about to open another,” said the chef, who returned home last year after completing his nearly four-year tenure at Ellipsis. In the family establishment he first became acquainted with the kitchen at the age of 12, starting with washing dishes.
From his father, Cheung inherited. He soon realized that he did not spend for the hotel. “My style does not suit the environment, which is more structural and depends on the number. Very often, I was called by HR for shouting or having an attitude, ”he says.
Cheung personally likes to wake up in the morning to buy fresh products from the market, think and want to do what he does – experiment. Although he doesn’t like to fit in with a genre of food, Cheung believes that every menu should follow a philosophy “otherwise it could be everywhere”. At One Street Over, the compact menu includes small plates, mains and three desserts. Although every dish seems familiar, Cheung’s brand innovation is evident when one tastes them. For example, serve with waffle, maple syrup, honey and truffle oil with kung pao broccoli or fried chicken with peanut, pepper and hoesin sauce. The dishes have a distinct Asian touch, probably due to his collaboration with Chef Bu Kwang Kim, who has moved from Chicago to Mumbai for the initiative.
The menu, Cheung adds, combines with the restaurant’s philosophy. One Street Over, which is his collaboration with Alia Hospitality, is bar-centric. “We want it to be a place where working professionals hang out several times a week,” he said, adding that the place is unlike any other place in the vicinity, which is aimed at most college students and numbers. The menu, thus, cleans from bar staples such as nachos, hummus and fry. Instead, it offers green beans or cauliflower, served with a dressing like cashew humus or soy garlic dressing – “healthy foods won’t mind eating a few times a week”.
Although Cheung has established himself as a chef in both Indian and international culinary scenes and is charting an independent path, his success will depend on his father’s approval. “I hear he approves of what I have achieved but he will never tell me that. He’s an old-fashioned Chinese man and our relationship is kind of awkward – we’ve hugged three times in our whole lives, ”Cheung said,“ our phone conversation lasted two minutes, where he would ask me how I was, why I wasn’t working, say He’s busy and shut up. “
Naturally, for Cheung, his father remained the norm. “Not nine, but I would be happy to own a restaurant. A small place – one can be smaller than One Street Over, where the kind of food I make and serve, the kind I like, ”he says.