FT critic Lander says chefs over-hyped

Updated: 2014-04-08 11:40

(China Daily)

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Garnaut says the industry in cities like Shanghai has become increasingly homogenous as creative younger minds fail to finance their own operations. She drew attention to how Britain's "Naked Chef" Jamie Oliver is stretching himself even thinner by opening a new Italian restaurant in Hong Kong.

"The downside is that everything is becoming a brand, a group," she adds. "I see less and less space for young people, even if they're prepared to take a risk."

"If I were young now and starting out, I'd open a pop-up store, but you've got to use social media to do it well," says the Melbourne-born entrepreneur, who launched M at the Fringe in Hong Kong in 1989 and later worked as a guest chef at the Peace Hotel in Shanghai.

"It's much harder to do what I did here 15 years ago now without speaking the language," she adds. "You have to be pretty strong in sticking to what you're doing."

Garnaut says her rent bill has grown eightfold in Shanghai compared to just a 300-percent increase in Hong Kong since she set up in the respective locations.

She added to her stable with the Glamour Bar at M on the Bund in 2001, which has served as the venue for the Shanghai Literary Festival, which she launched one year later. This year's event wrapped up in late March.

Speaking to one of the biggest crowds of the festival, Lander listed the key attributes of a successful restaurateur: A sense of humor; a love of food, wine and people; picking an inexpensive location on the way up; financial nous; a thick skin; and appreciating the importance of the local community.

He also predicted that the inconsistent and often disappointing level of service at many Chinese restaurants will improve dramatically in the next five years.

"It's got to start at the top and then percolate down," he says.

"You wait. We're living in the golden age of restaurants."


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