A group consisting mainly of professional chefs, together with a few boutique accommodation owners and a few fortunate home cooks, have just returned from a three week culinary odyssey to China.
They were guests of the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China and trainees under the Shandong Foreign Trade Vocational College at Tai’an and Quindao.
Perhaps the most important lesson learnt by the participants of the Culinary Skills Programme for Samoa 2017 was the significant role which food plays in Chinese culture, and the care and attention which is given to: the ingredients; the varied cooking processes, and the overall appearance and presentation of food prepared for guests, which if taken together is intended to bring prosperity, good luck and long life to each individual as well as the assembled group of diners at each and every meal.
The provision and preparation of Food and sharing meals together in China, is not simply fulfilling a basic necessity, but has developed over many centuries as an important occasion for socializing and gathering together as family and friends, and is an opportunity for the host to sprinkle good fortune over their guests in a convivial and pleasant environment.
To start the course preparatory lectures about Chinese history and culture, food science and knife skills were followed by practical training courses given by some of China’s most eminent culinary experts and Masterchefs and the participants were put through their paces as they tried to replicate the dishes they had been shown.
Fish, Pork, Prawns and Jellyfish found themselves at the mercy of the Samoan chefs, and with great patience (and the maturity borne from great skill) our Culinary Professors offered their comment and suggestions.
Twenty continuous days of culinary training culminated in graduation at two institutions, S.F.T.V.C. and the Shandong Provincial Labour and Employment Training Centrein Jinan,and the conferral of Training Certificates for all 19 Samoan trainees.
They were then treated to a bullet train trip to Beijing to climb the Great Wall of China, where seven of the group climbed through five forts to the Tenth Fortress, while the less hardy were drinking green tea in the car park after climbing to the usual two forts, with a visit to Olympic Park followed the next day by a walking tour of Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
Although described by close friends and relatives as simply an eating tour of China, in fact the daily training sessions were exacting and challenging and new skills were learnt and techniques explored, although it must be said that the daily meals were exceptional and an exquisite banquet was provided at lunch and dinner each day as well as an extensive breakfast buffet given the subject matter of the course.
The physical environment of China was remarkable and the sheer scale of the architecture, public facilities, technology and sophistication was a revelation for even the most seasoned travelers in the group, although there were many whose first trip outside Samoa was this once in a lifetime voyage to China.
In terms of the treatment of the group, they were humbled by the extraordinary kindness and generosity of the Ministry of Commerce staff, the teachers from the Shandong Foreign Trade Vocational College and all those who lectured them for their warm welcome and dedicated care during theirentire stay which was a credit to their country and their various training institutions.
“We will ever be grateful for such an invaluable and unique opportunity.”
At the end of the day the Chinatraining course offered a small glimpse into the hearts of a diverse nation whose modern developments are simply a restoration of the status and rich history of a culture so prominent in ancient times …and coming back with a vengeance.
The art of superior culinary culture inChina, is to prepare food meant for others with care, respect and humility, and if so prepared,it will bring joy to those who are partaking and a positive light to that particular part of the world….
As the great philosopher Confucius once said:‘He who wishes to secure the good of others has already secured his own.’
“We note with gratitude the Samoa Hotels Association and the Samoa Tourism Authority for requesting the training course, and in particular offer our grateful appreciation to the Government and people of the Peoples Republic of China through His Excellency Ambassador Wang XeuFeng and his good lady Madam Tong Xin for their kind assistance, and finally to Zhang Min (Joy); Sun Yang Ting (Ivy) Ziang Ting Ting (Felicity) and Zhang Li Ziao (Fred) our China family for their support and care.”