A lot of people have grown concerned over the quality of food in China, worrying whether or not their food will be served with some type of exotic meat such as dog meat, or or how clean the ingredients are.
Are the fears justified or just based on urban myth? To answer some of the questions hanging over the current safety and cleanliness of food in China and particular in food and beverage outlets, we have asked some of the experts on the ground.
What are the current dining trends that you are seeing in China?
‘Eat Clean’ is a huge trend everywhere in the world. Eating clean might be interpreted as ‘eat greens’, ‘eat lean meats’, ‘eat less processed food’ or sometime it might just literally mean ‘eat clean food’.
‘We are seeing an increased awareness in regard to health and particularly food safety. Chinese consumers are extremely concerned with ingredient sourcing and integrity, the local media seems to be dominated by food scares, from exploding melons to expired meat at fast food chains. Everyone is talking about food.’Hector Pliego, Director of Food & Beverage at the JW Marriott Beijing Central commented.
Leo Li-Executive Chinese Chef at Renaissance Beijing Wangfujing added ‘Now that the Chinese government recently changed their policy on spending, it’s less about luxury and more about quality of the ingredients. It’s all about getting your money’s worth. Guests pay a lot more attention to service and how attentive it should be to ever changing requirements. Overall, there’s also more attention towards healthy dishes with less oil and fried ingredients. There’s more rational reasoning behind the dining experience and less extravagance.’
Part of where you’re going is to know where you’re coming form. So, even though new trends are emerging here in China, people are committed to their origins* . *
*‘I believe that nowadays the classics are back so dinning around the world including China is paying a lot of attention to authentic products and classic recipes, so we are going back to basics. A good roast, perfect cooked benedict eggs, tasty lobster bisque… using the freshest products in China’ *said,Jordi Villegas Excutive Chief at Renaissance Beijing Wangfujing
With China’s middle class growing and more international options becoming available throughout cities right across China, some interesting synergies and links are being made between traditional Chinese cuisine and some international counterparts. Kevin Thomson, Executive Chef for both JW Marriott and Ritz-Carlton Central Place Beijing says:
*‘*Italian food is still very popular due to the fact that some items such as pasta are very closely related to a Chinese heritage. As more and more people travel globally I believe a lot more influences will become more prevalent in regards to Latin America with its spices and flavours. Of course there is always room for the classic sometimes presented in a contemporary and modern way.’’
How Safe and Clean are the Ingredients Bought in the Local Markets?
Quality ingredients are available in China. Finding trusted suppliers doesn’t seem to be too difficult either.
‘China has been improving a lot in safety regulations. As a 5 star hotel we only buy from trusted suppliers that guaranty freshness and quality regulations. We also import some authentic products from other countries to complement China’s product’, says Jordi Villegas.
Hector however also mentioned that he wouldn’t rely on trusted suppliers alone:
’Our company has always taken food safety extremely seriously, therefore we do not only rely on vendor certificates, but rather our own independent audits. We visit our suppliers and check up all the way up the supply chain to the origin.’
These chefs won’t rest until they make sure the ingredients are safe. Executive Chinese Chef Leo Li says:
‘One way of ensuring safe and clean ingredients is to trace them to the source where they are farmed and grown. This is not done once, but on a regular basis. This gives the producers credibility and a sense of security to our guests when they dine in our restaurants’
JW Marriott’s Kevin Thompson adds:
‘I personally always ensure that I wash all fruit and vegetables, but not onions and certain types of mushroom as you will lose the flavor in the product. When washing lettuce I always add a pinch of salt to the water as well as ice which brings all your vegetables to a crisp appearance and then spin dry in a lettuce spinner. As for meat and fish, just follow the guidelines of freshness; smell and touch as well as temperature of the product.’
China has been undergoing some unprecedented changes over the past ten years in regard to manufacturing, food and the economy in general. As each ‘scare’ has come up, the authorities and food and beverage leaders have been quick to react to them and adjust their policies and practices accordingly.
On the whole, from what our food experts have told us China is heading on the right trajectory when it comes to food cleanliness and safety. While they can’t vouch for all food and beverage outlets, they do assure us that any food from their respective establishments will have been the subject of strict control systems to ensure that only the most clean and healthy foods hit your table..