Kaisern Ching on Din Tai Fung to building Chefs Gallery

Kaisern Ching talks about how he brought Din Tai Fung to Australia and then went on to establish Chefs Gallery.
Kaisern Ching talks about how he brought Din Tai Fung to Australia and then went on to establish Chefs Gallery.

Kaisern Ching may have started his career with Macquarie Bank, but these days he’s constantly thinking about how to impress his diners at Chefs Gallery.

Ching founded Chefs Gallery shortly a year after bringing Tapei’s first Din Tai Fung restaurant to Australia just over six years ago.

He said after moving from Singapore to Australia he realised Australia’s definition of Chinese food was partial, with people’s perception limited to the same few things such as yum cha, standard seafood dishes, Mongolian beef, and honey chicken, which he felt was “not doing Chinese food justice”.

He noticed this particularly having grown up in Singapore, a country which he says is “a very multicultural society, and the food industry there is slightly more mixed and experimental in how east and west can come together”.

“I realised the Chinese restaurants [six years ago] was not like how it is today; it was still pretty much those standard Cantonese seafood restaurants, which are too boring, in my opinion. They serve the same food, same standard of service, and you can’t really differentiate from one another,” he said.

Ching said when he opened the first Din Tai Fung franchise, it was an “good eye opener” as he learnt a lot about how an international brand managed its business. But like any franchise, there were also restrictions, and for Ching that meant the inability to customise the menu for the Australian market, which forced him to give up managing Din Tai Fung and open up his own venture, Chefs Gallery.

Ching explained the menu at Chefs Gallery is a mix of authentic Chinese flavours with “something a little different to spice it up” including a mix of modern western-influenced presentation. He said during the research phase of creating the menu, there was a realisation similar dishes existed across different countries, and to allow customers to make an objective decision on what they order, Ching decided to remove labelling any dishes with common names.

“I mean if you call a dish Mi Goreng, you already let the customer in their own mind know it’s a Malaysian dish. But in China there is something similar so why don’t we do it justice by not calling it any names, and have decided to call it spicy prawn noodles,” he said.

“This is how we let people relook at the food because if we called it Mi Goreng people would automatically think it’s a Malaysian cuisine, but actually in mainland China and Thailand there is the same dish.”

But before getting into hospitality, Ching worked for Macquarie Bank, originally in Singapore and then in Australia. “I guess you get bored of what you do and so you decide to try something different,” he said.

These days with experience now behind him, Ching said it’s all about trying to understand how better improve the dining experience for patrons.

“People eat everyday but the question is: ‘How can you make them remember a particular dining experience?’ That would be the key to a good food operation,” he said.

And more importantly during his time off, Ching is always on a hunt for a good bowl of wonton noodles, claiming it to be his favourite dish of all time.

“Being someone from Canton origin, my favourite food is a bowl of wonton noodles. It’s a very simple dish but if you look back at the history of how it came about and how it’s made you appreciate how the Chinese ancestors came up with it,” he said.

“But along the way because of commercialisation, in my opinion, it has deteriorated in its standards so I’m always on the look out for a good bowl of wonton noodles.”

Disclosure: Community Table was invited to the launch of Chefs Gallery’s Art Menu.

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