Chef MATT CHEN and Chef KEN CHAN are executive chefs of the three Michelin-starred Le Palais, located on the top floor of the Palais de Chine Hotel.
Chef Matt Chen moved to Taiwan with his uncle from Macau to work at a seafood restaurant in 1988. Chef Ken Chan moved to Taiwan after a vegetarian restaurant invited him to join their team in 1987. During their years as culinary professionals, the Chefs worked in some of the best establishments in Taipei. They have become accustomed to thinking of different Chinese regional cuisines traditions from different points, as well as being specialized in Cantonese cuisine. The Chefs used creativity to links these diversities, bringing the concept of Chinese cuisine to a completely new frontier.
China-underground: How and when did you understand you wanted to be a Chef? What motivated you?
Chef Matt: From 14 years old start to work at my uncle’s restaurant.
Chef Ken: From 12 years old. My mother asked me to learn a skill.
Chef Matt Chen is originally from Macau, where local cuisine has Portuguese influence. He visits many different places every year based on his passion for cuisines, attempting all types of different gourmet cuisines.
Restaurant Le Palais
The Chinese restaurant “Le Palais” on the 17th floor was designed based on the theme of a “playful garden”. Le Palais in French means “the palace”, which means that dining at this restaurant is not only feel pampered with the surrounding atmosphere and royal service treatment but also savor the palace class exquisite gourmet made with high-end unusual ingredients. The experience unprecedented elegance and relaxation, yet full of adventurous excitement that for sure redefine dining taste in life. “Le Palais” not only has a modest luxurious appearance, but it also provides honor and a sense of extravagance to expert gourmands who love Chinese cuisine due to the great skill of the chefs.
Address:17F, No. 3, Section 1, Chengde Road, Taipei 103
Can you share with us some of your childhood food memories? Who has been your biggest influence or font of inspiration and why?
Chef Matt: My uncle influenced me the most. Under his training, I start to have a passion for cuisine.
Chef Ken: My mom supported me a lot. I was not good at study. Therefore she asked me to learn a skill and since I love to taste, I started to cooking.
Chef Ken’s mantra is to provide quality service with a smile. He believes that all chefs should come to work with passion and enthusiasm armed with the mission of whipping up meals that they would remember.
What do you love most about your job? What are the greatest rewards?
Chef Matt & Chef Ken: Try a lot of different ingredients and go abroad to see and taste different cuisine.
Can you tell us about your culinary philosophy? What ingredients and flavors best reflect it? How do you prefer to balance your cuisine: tradition or fusion innovation?
Chef Matt & Chef Ken: Keep traditional flavor is the most important thing. We go abroad to try and learn about different cuisine and culture. We make innovations based on traditional tastes.
Both of us insist to keep the traditional taste, that is the reason we can work together for over 10 years.
Le Palais’ executive Chef Ken said, after crowned three Michelin: “It is a happy day as our team effort has led to this achievement. The team will continue working harder, and I plan to treat my team to supper tonight.”
You both left Hong Kong and Macau years ago to work in Taiwan. Taipei island has a rich culinary history. What has meant and what has changed for you since then?
Chef Ken: I had been to lots of places, I like Taipei the most. This island has a lot of different kinds of ingredients that let us discover.
Chef Matt: I have the same thinking as Chef Ken. I think Taipei City is suitable for living. For example, you only spent NT$100, and you can taste very nice cuisine. I love this place once I arrived here. That’s why I wish all of the guests can experience traditional Cantonese cuisine.
You were awarded three Michelin stars. You have mastered the art of cooking a variety of Chinese cuisine types. Do you think this is the secret that makes unique and emphasized the food experience at Le Palais Restaurant?
Chef Matt & Chef Ken: As we always said, no matter what kinds of rewards we receive, keep our own true heart is the most important thing. Be humble to see and learn. There is no end to this book of cuisines.
Can you share with us any interesting stories or significant team memories from the kitchen or behind your work scenes?
Chef Matt & Chef Ken: We made a lot of conversations with our team members. When we have an idea and discuss it together, that moment is the most interesting thing to us. We love to teach new chefs and would like to let them understand that teamwork is the most important thing in the kitchen.
What advice can you give to aspiring Chefs? What tips for healthy cooking, food and the environment?
Chef Matt: To see, try and learn more and more, never stop learning.
Chef Ken: Stay hungry, stay foolish. Treating your customers as to your family member. Making the dishes with heart.
Hong Kong-born Chef Ken Chan said “I don’t see myself as a veteran chef. My mentality is that I am like a child, just learning to walk and I have to constantly learn new things.”
Photo courtesy of Le Palais