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Dialogue: JimO Cooking with heart and skill
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JimO Cooking with heart and skill

By Annie Ly

WBT201511_040_Feature_Story_004_-_97A5746The question,  “Who is the best chef you know in your life?” is often followed by the answer,  “My mother.”  The St. Regis Hotel’s newest executive chef, JimO, does not set to challenge this position but rather embraces the reason for this instinctive answer in his own cooking. For JimO, using your heart when you cook is the most important element to unlocking the potential of creative fine cuisine.


JimO is a well-seasoned chef, having worked in the culinary industry for over a decade. Beginning his long-standing career from scratch and working his way up to master the art of gastronomy, JimO has worked in a number of flagship hotels in cities all over China, including Chongqing’s Westin China Hotel. Adding to his long, ever-growing list, The St.Regis Tianjin is now the fourteenth hotel he has worked for, bringing to Tianjin a wealth of experience, energy and passion for contemporary Asian cuisine.


The Tianjin attraction


WBT201511_040_Feature_Story_001_-_HighlightsAs part of a natural career progression, JimO expresses excitement to be able to expose his talents to new areas of China. Indeed, by expanding his career to northern China, for JimO, the only way is up. In the short time he has spent in the city, he has already become familiar with some of Tianjin’s speciality foods to grasp the flavours Tianjin has to offer his cooking repertoire. But, there is still much to be discovered about local tastes.


Unlike the other cities he has developed his career in, Tianjin’s distinct blend of European influence with Chinese tradition is what struck JimO most when arriving in Tianjin. The colonial look combined with the city buzz provides a new environment for JimO to try out creative recipes in. As with his previous cooking experiences, JimO hopes to truly understand local Tianjin tastes and leave his own mark on the city’s dining experience. He is confident that working for St Regis’ strong brand will provide the right springboard for him to combine his passion for exquisite cuisine with great service for all customers to enjoy.


A personal touch


WBT201511_040_Feature_Story_005_-_97A5764Not shy in admitting that Asian cuisine is his forte, perhaps what sets the St Regis’ newest addition apart from other executive chefs is JimO’s emphasis on cooking and managing a kitchen with a personal touch. “When you lead yourself, you use your head. When you lead others, you use your heart,” is the ethos employed by JimO. When it comes to managing his diverse team of young, talented chefs, JimO believes a hands-on approach and attention to detail are essential. But, he is not afraid to get stuck in, admitting to spending most of his time within the kitchen working alongside his team. “I love to do on the job training, personal coaching is very important,” he stresses. One of the most important components needed to ensure that the food is cooked and served with the utmost quality is genuine and honest leadership. JimO believes recognition of good practice and emphasis on teamwork are what makes his kitchen deliver such high standards of cuisine.


Also at the very heart of his cooking approach lies the need to understand local tastes; only then is it possible to cook creatively with a particular style to cater to new audiences. JimO looks beyond his own personal preferences, blending together new flavours with that which is desired by the Tianjin tongue and pushing the boundaries of the local taste palette. This personalised approach is sure to be the recipe for success as we usher in a new era of culinary skills under Chef Jim O.


Great expectations


So what can we expect from the St Regis’ latest addition to the kitchen? One thing that comes through strongly when speaking to JimO is his passion for food. He is a fountain of creative ideas which seamlessly align with St Regis’ signature style of luxury service. From handmade noodles with braised beef brisket to Hainanese chicken rice, to fresh corn puree with curry oil and baked peach crumble, JimO’s dishes are bursting with creative twists to please customers. In the process of developing new specialties, food presentation has even been touched by JimO’s creativity through the inventive use of unusual ingredients like squid ink and fennel herbs.


The Tianjin taste


WBT201511_040_Feature_Story_003_-_HighlightsAs the city of Tianjin continues to develop and change, the ability to keep up with the shifting tastes of Tianjin locals is a challenge Chef JimO will undoubtedly face. But the St Regis’ newest executive chef is quietly confident he has what it takes to succeed. Noting that today’s young generation are bolder and more open to trying new things, JimO recognises the enthusiasm of Tianjin customers to seek new experiences and yet still appreciate good cuisine. It is this that the St Regis’ newest chef sees as a sea of great potential. There’s a new flavour in town and it starts with Chef JimO joining the prestigious St Regis team, creating a new age for Tianjin taste buds.

 

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