Vivi Cheung – therapeutic chef in Hong Kong – Dandy’s organic café
Vivi Cheung is a well-known therapeutic chef in Hong Kong. She cooks organic food to support health, and will soon be re-opening Dandy’s organic café in a new location on Upper Lascar Road in Central, Hong Kong Island.
We chat to her about her work and ask her what she would recommend a stressed-out chef should eat after a late-night shift. Read on for her advice.
Vivi Cheung – A Chef’s Portrait
Vivi, please tell us about when you first decided to become a chef.
I didn’t make the decision to become a therapeutic chef; it just happened naturally. It was when I helped out at my friend’s restaurant during my psychology degree in 2000. Well, let me take you back a little further to the core reasons that inspired me to become an organic therapeutic chef today: I used to have IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and it caused me a lot of pain and impacted on my lifestyle quite severely. So, I started to search for a cure at the library and read a lot of books that related to food remedies and food nutrients.
During my research, I learned so much about how food influences our everyday life and health. I’ve been focusing on researching food medicine and food remedies ever since (it has now been over 18 years!).
In 2001, I postponed my study of psychology in order to focus on my food healing journey. Now, I am a well-known organic therapeutic chef in Hong Kong and earned Hong Kong’s Michelin Star Awards (AA rating) in 2014-2015. I believe that if you follow your passion and do something that also benefits others, lucky stars will fall down on you and you will become successful!
In Hong Kong, many people have the idea that healthy food has to taste bad, as if it were a punishment for good eating. But I totally disagree with that and, of course, you can’t give any comment until you try my cooking, right?
You also cook vegan and gluten-free food – can you tell us more about this?
I’ve always enjoyed cooking healthy food, especially vegan and non-vegan gluten-free, because I love to make people healthy and enjoy my artistic creations with background knowledge of food remedies. It makes me happy to see their faces as they indulge in my food with no safety concern. It really makes my day.
So what is your philosophy on food?
Eat for both health and enjoyment.
“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food,” as Hippocrates said.
Do you find it difficult to find any ingredients in Hong Kong? Where do you get your fresh produce from?
Finding fresh produce is quite a challenge in Hong Kong. Especially buying organic vegetables is even harder! We usually use both local and imported veggies to stabilise our resources for the kitchen.
What is the vegan dining scene in Hong Kong like? Are people starting to embrace it? Are there vegan restaurants?
In recent years, there are so many vegetarian restaurants appearing on the market and this phenomenon has become more like a trend now in Hong Kong. I think this is a good thing!
Please tell us about Dandy’s cafe and what it’s all about.
Dandy’s organic café is not just a café. It’s more like a one-stop shop for healthy, organic, natural food as we have a mini superfood organic market as well. And it has a big, informative menu with a lot of gluten-free, low-GI, dairy-free dishes, and detoxing and cleansing beverages.
What would you like to see in the future in terms of the way people eat?
Over the last 10 years, food safety scares have been in the news regularly. Now, some people in Hong Kong are paying attention to food safety and care about what they are buying from the supermarket. They are checking labels and trying to buy organic produce for their kids if they can afford it.
In terms of the future, I would really like to see people spending more time studying food nutrients and remedies instead of relying on drugs (medicines) as cures.
Also, I believe that prevention is much better than cure, so I hope more people choose to eat healthily on a daily basis.
Perhaps you can help all the other chefs out there, working late and dealing with high levels of stress – what would you recommend a chef to eat after a long shift, late at night?
I would suggest that chefs eat a high-fibre and protein-based diet. It’s especially beneficial for those who have such a hectic lifestyle, working late and often drinking a lot, too!
For me, I usually have a big bowl of bone broth vegetable soup for a late-night snack. Bone broth is full of vitamins, minerals and has plenty of other health benefits, as well.
As most chefs stand long hours, six days a week, their joints can pay the price, sometimes needing medical attention. Bone broth promotes healthy bones because it contains a lot of collagen. When it simmers for a long time, gelatin is pulled out of the bones. This is why your stock sometimes solidifies in the fridge, like jelly – the bones have provided a naturally occurring gelatin to thicken the liquid. When you drink the broth, your body absorbs the gelatin. It strengthens your bones and promotes joint health by providing a cushion-like coating for your joints. It also helps your joints glide without friction. So it is perfect for hard-working chefs!
Other health benefits:
- Heals leaky gut.
- Boosts the immune system.
- Encourages healthy and shiny hair.
For most chefs around the world, the hectic lifestyle with stressful daily kitchen work can create a lot of mental and physical problems. Mental distress can led to people relying on alcohol and drugs, such as painkillers. So it’s important to strengthen the immune system and stay healthy and positive.
Nourishing healthy skin and hair are also very important for fussy chefs like me.
Would you be able to share your recipe with us?
- 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ½ cups red onion (chopped in small cubes)
- 1 carrot (peeled and chopped in small cubes)
- 1cups celery (chopped in small cubes)
- 4 cloves garlic (chopped in small cubes)
- 10 oz bone broth (or low-sodium chicken broth)
- 1 cup of kale (chopped in small pieces)
- ½ cup lentil or quinoa
- ⅓ cup fresh parsley (chopped and to be added on top for extra flavour as well as health benefits)
Thanks very much, Vivi. We’re looking forward to trying your recipe and stopping by the new iteration of Dandy’s organic café in 2019.
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