“Well, people usually think authentic food should be made in a traditional or original way. Indeed, keeping culinary techniques traditional or original is important, but we still need to make some changes to keep pace with the current times. I think cooking authentic food means making food using local and seasonal ingredients. In addition, when guests say ‘This is the taste I expect!’ while eating my cooking, this to me is a reflection of what authentic food should be,” said Jimmy Lee, the highly experienced Burmese-born Head Chef at Irodori, the most authentic Japanese restaurant in Taipei at the Grand Hyatt Hotel.
“Guests want to taste authentic food, but sometimes it is necessary to make a little change in order to match local guests’ expectations for flavor. For example, sometimes I need to adjust the sour taste of the sushi rice, but still retain its original flavor. This is the most challenging part when making small adjustments to suit the local market,” added Chef Jimmy, who has perfected this art so his restaurant is packed every day.
At Benjarong, at the Dusit Thani in Bangkok, I was surprised to find that the delicious Thai food was prepared by a Danish chef, Morten Nielsen, who has been cooking Thai cuisine since 2007. The food tastes exactly as you’d expect from home cooking, but served in a modern style – such as the Tom Kha Kai soup served in an earthenware jar.
In fact, there might be no such thing as truly authentic food, but achieving a taste that comes close to matching the guest’s expectations is a fair definition of what authentic taste should mean. However, even allowing that ‘authentic’ can have a pretty broad meaning, that doesn’t give hotels carte blanche to use the term to promote restaurants that most definitely aren’t.
Today’s guests are not just travelers but also explorers. They know the difference between what is real and what is not. “For me, authentic is when you have studied and have a proven track record of dishes that goes back generations. The ultimate goal is for me to have a full restaurant every day; this means our guests have trust in us and want to come and enjoy our style of Thai cooking,” explained Chef Morten.
Whether or not you want to make your restaurant ‘authentic’ or ‘fusion’, the ultimate aim is to meet guests’ expectations. As Chef Jimmy said, “I want to be able to satisfy every guest, make them happy to enjoy my creations and recognize my innovations. To be accepted is very important and I think that is the goal I want to achieve.”