Quoted: Chef Chris Cheung on the State of Chinese Cuisine in New York City

This is taken from an interview for an upcoming feature. Stay tuned.

photo by Brent Herrig. Using without his permission is illegal... and mean.

photo by Brent Herrig. Using without his permission is illegal… and mean.

How do you feel about the general state of Chinese cuisine in NYC right now?

I’m very excited about it. Because as I grew up in the culinary world, in my heyday as a cook and chef, Chinese food wasn’t regarded as anything special. It was taken for granted, sometimes unnecessarily and sometimes because we were cooking more for speed than quality — so we have to take some of that blame.

But there were always these gems to be found in Chinatown, where we weren’t cooking for anyone but ourselves; the working class. When you’re working class you don’t have many pleasures in life except for a good meal, and when you’re working hard you don’t get to come home and have that meal cooked for you. So you rely on restaurants, and they have to be cheap, and they have to provide that pleasure. We had that, but I don’t think people really understood or embraced our cuisine in the rest of the city. Now, those things are starting to resonate, with a lot of chefs pushing the envelope. I think it’s a really good time.

The traditionalist in me does think that maybe we skipped a little bit over some of the great Chinese food and jumped to innovation, but you can’t have everything. So the fact alone that Chinese food is getting this big push in the media and people are starting to be really educated about it is great. Right now I read about places like Tuome and Fung Tu, and those guys seem to be rising at a high rate, so my hats off to them. But I still go to the same places in old Chinatown, like Big Wong and Ping’s Seafood House and Hop Kee; they’ve been doing their thing for more than thirty years and haven’t skipped a beat, so I tip my hat as well to those guys who have been around so long and haven’t changed. To still be doing consistently food over that period of time is special.

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