CIMF 2018 Masthead

A feast that shows the art behind the dish

Laura Peppas

Often so much attention goes into the taste of food, and little is thought of the effort behind the dish.

But meticulous preparation is one of the most fascinating parts of this month’s Chairman Group’s Seafood Feast.

Featuring six weeks of new seafood dishes, different degustation menus and a range of special events run across the Chairman Group’s three restaurants (Barton’s Chairman and Yip and Lilotang from 17 April, and Lanterne Rooms in Campbell already in full swing), the festival is a collective celebration of all things seafood, with recipes and ingredients influenced from all over the world.

Chairman Group Director Josiah Li says each new dish is three to six months in the making, from initial concept to table.

“The processes involved in creating our food are long, and challenging at times,” he says.

“A research team was set up before Christmas last year while research trial cooking started in January, every Sunday and Monday. Often the same idea will have to be tweaked and adjusted over and over, tried and tested until we have a result that we are proud to share it.

“This is not an easy process, the rigour of testing is demanding on our chefs. [But] it is also a beautiful process, where decades of experience and youthful enthusiasm come together.”

As part of the festival, the group will be producing more than twenty new dishes across the three restaurants, which will be released in stages through the six-week festival.

Some mouth-watering additions include Lanterne Rooms’ Mud Crabs, where curry powder, dried prawns and fresh herbs are used to make a finger-lickingly good coating for the crabs; Chairman and Yip’s Golden Oyster and Cuttlefish toast, and Lilotang’s sashimi plate, curated by head chef Shunsuke Ota (formerly of Nobu.)

Josiah says suppliers from around the country—and the world—have been called in to present their products as part of the festival.  

“This includes prawns from Queensland, razor clams from Tasmania, dehydrated prawn roe from Hong Kong and mud crabs from the Northern Territory,” he says.

“Some concepts were drawn from traditional Chinese recipes, for example the cuttlefish toast.”

And while Josiah notes there may be a misconception that seafood must equal simple flavours, the complexity of each dish defies that.

“Seafood ingredients themselves are actually incredibly complex, and our chefs build on these flavours while still staying true to the character of the ingredients,” he says.

“For example, the Kam Heung crab in Lanterne Rooms is a dry fry version using lots of traditional spices and herbs to bring out the special flavours of fresh mud crab. The market today welcomes a diversified approach to ingredients.”

He adds that Daniel Mark and his team at Lanterne Rooms have combined Nyonya, Malay, Indian and Chinese flavours for the feast, resulting in a marriage of bold spices and fresh ingredients, while Chairman and Yip’s team have derived inspiration from Hong Kong.

So, one might ask, why do all of this just for a plate of food?

Josiah sums it up perfectly.  

“Because food is our passion, our love, the art form we have chosen (or has chosen us). The process of constantly creating, evolving and refining is what defines our team and our organisation. As individuals, it lifts us up, and as a group, it drives us.”

the essentials

What: Chairman Group’s Seafood Feast
Where: Lilotang, Chairman and Yip and Lanterne Rooms
When: From 10 April – 22 May
Web: chairmangroup.com.au/chairmanyip

Photography: Anisa Sabet

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Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author