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Dining Hall Learns Asian Cuisine with Sichuan Chef Shirley Cheng
Inthat Boonpongmanee '19 Senior Writer
April 19, 2018

Over spring break, the Dining Hall Staff received instruction on Asian cuisine from special guest chef Shirley Cheng, a teacher from the Culinary Institute of America.

Chef Cheng, a native of Sichuan Province, China, worked with the Dining Hall staff for three days.

This visit served as another step in the Dining Hall’s long term plan to increase the diversity of dining hall offerings and enhance the dining experience.

Credit: Deerfield Academy Flickr

Bradley Woodward, Assistant Director of Food Services, said, “[The goal of this training was to] give us a quick but broad view of different Asian cuisines and cooking techniques … from a lot of different cultures.”

He described the training’s material as a survey of cuisine from China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam and India.

Some of the new dishes the staff practiced making will soon be served in the Dining Hall. Mr. Woodward shared, “We are going to prepare our own kimchi for the first time.”

The staff also loved a “teriyaki skirt steak recipe … [that will] be served at brunch in a couple of weeks.”

With such a diverse campus and strong Asian community, Mr. Woodward affirmed, “[The Dining Hall has been] trying to increase the amount of Asian and other ethnic cuisine that we’re preparing, and also trying to improve the authenticity of that food.”

Credit: Deerfield Academy Flickr

There has been a general concern about the quality of Asian cuisine served at Deerfield, especially among Asian students who grew up enjoying authentic Asian fare.

Commenting on the ‘Asian Chicken Tacos’ served at the Dining Hall, Nadia Jo ’19 said, “When I told my Asian friends [at other schools] about it, they simply laughed because tacos aren’t Asian at all.”

When discussing the effectiveness of bringing an Asian chef straight from Sichuan Province, China, Anna Fu ’20 reflected, “They can’t simply bring an Asian chef in for a few days and hope to teach the Dining Hall chefs’ all the nuances of Asian cuisine. It’s far more complicated than that.”

She explained how countries within Asia had a diverse set of palates, and even within China, different provinces had unique cuisines.

Credit: Deerfield Academy Flickr

“To think that one [person] from one province in China can accurately teach the cooking styles and techniques of so many different countries is ridiculous,” Fu articulated.

Mr. Woodward acknowledged they were limited by time in the length of the training: “In three days, you can’t really cover everything about the cuisines of these different countries.”

Without being able to focus on the details and having to provide food on such a large scale, the Dining Hall is challenged in being able to provide completely authentic food from any cuisine.

“However,” Fu continued, “the Dining Hall should take more caution when defining any dish as ‘Asian’ or ‘Mexican’ when it is evident the dish is inauthentic.”

The Dining Hall’s goal of providing a more multicultural menu for the diverse Deerfield community has a fan in Jae Won Moon ’20, who shared, “[I am] looking forward to the new meals they have in store.”