A BUDDING chef from Swindon had the opportunity of a lifetime after being awarded placements in top Michelin-starred restaurants in Hong Kong.
Joe Vinten, 23, from Haydon End, graduated from University College Birmingham last year with a 2.1 and jetted off to the Far East to experience the challenges of bustling Asian kitchens.
The placements were organised after Joe won the title of Young Chef Of The Year For Oriental Cuisine, and he said his ambition was to open his own restaurant.
He has secured a visa to work in America for two years and will fly out on January 18.
“My ultimate goal, five or ten years down the line, is to work in Hong Kong and get myself to a high position there,” said Joe.
“I would love to open my own place. It could be difficult, because they require a higher entry level. They can employ people from mainland China very easily.
“But I like to travel and experience cultures at the same time as working. You can’t say you have experience of Asian cuisine until you have been there and experienced it yourself.”
Joe had a number of placements while being guided around the city by Brian Yip, the chairman of Wing Yip, who supplies Chinese food to restaurants and supermarkets.
Joe said: “It was an amazing experience, and they all had an incredible attention to detail. The speed and the pace of the city takes your breath away.
“It is the most populated city in the world, so the sheer number of eaters means an increased speed in the kitchen. “The main thing that strikes you is the pace of Hong Kong, full of crowds of people with shops open until midnight. “It is a whole new level, and when you step into the kitchen it is like pressing fast forward.”
Many of the restaurants he worked in were industry-recognised, but a few still threw up some surprises. He said: “Two of them had three Michelin stars, and one was the third best in Asia. One was called Amber, within the Mandarin Hotel, and another called Bo-Innovation.
“Bo-Innovation takes classic Chinese cooking and gastronomy, and it is like a Chinese Heston Blumenthal. They have just achieved three Michelin stars.
“It had one of the smallest kitchens I have ever worked in, and it is surprising what they can do in such a limited space.”
Joe said bringing together different styles of cooking is integral to success in a foreign market.
“I still use traditional style presentation but take ingredients from Asia and utilise them. Asian cooking has always been quite traditional, but when you combine that with restaurant concepts and fine dining you can create something unique. “It is all about the way you present yourself and your whole manner.
“ If you come up with a good dish but it is a nightmare to put together, it is less worthwhile.
“I just enjoy myself when I am cooking, and I think that shows in your work. This has opened a lot of doors for me, and it has been an amazing experience.”