Top chefs take on Bordeaux wine country
By Suzanne Mustacich, AFP
July 9, 2012, 12:03 am TWN
BORDEAUX, France--When it comes to pairing food and wine, most chefs start with the food. But in Bordeaux, the wine comes first, offering a new challenge to the Michelin-starred chefs flocking to the French region.
With Hong Kong the guest of honor at the Bordeaux wine festival, the territory's tourism head Anthony Lau flew in a team of starred chefs to cook for half a million festival goers and the region's wine elite.
"It's a new challenge, a new concept," Lau told AFP at the event last week. "We want them to be the rock stars of the festival."
Lau's chefs had less than a day to adapt to kitchens lent to them by local caterers and tweak their recipes to use locally-sourced ingredients, while adhering to the golden rule of never overpowering the wine.
"We were told not to use too much pepper as it will affect the pairing with Bordeaux wine," said Lee Man-sing, who clinched a first Michelin star for the Hong Kong Mandarin Oriental's Cantonese restaurant last December.
There were also unforeseen glitches when playing with the nuances that make a wine and a dish work together, or not.
"We couldn't find the right soy sauce. It was too strong. In Hong Kong we have hundreds of kinds of soy sauces," said Mak Kwai-pui, dim sum specialist and owner of Tim Ho Wan, a one-star eatery that serves meals for under five euros.
Continuing their turn in the spotlight, the Hong Kong chefs later manned the kitchens at a dinner for 300 members of the wine elite, hosted by the CGCC, the council representing the most prestigious wines from Bordeaux, the classified grand crus.
The council has been spearheading a move to open Bordeaux up to world cuisine, including through an award-winning cookbook that matched top wines with recipes from top chefs around the planet.
'For a chef, it's an absolute joy'
Bordeaux estates have been rushing to sign up chefs from France and elsewhere as partners, to showcase new approaches to pairing food and wine, playing on textures and aromas and integrating world cuisines.
"Everyone seems to have their own Michelin-starred chef," commented Miguel Lecuona, a wine consultant visiting from Texas.