It’s kind of funny to me when restaurants boast, as a big selling point, that they change their menu regularly. It’s like, well, yeah. Any self-respecting chef is going to adjust and vary his food as ingredients and supplies change. Smart chefs will take advantage of seasonal ingredients that are the freshest, most flavourful and – very importantly – cheapest. It’s a no-brainer. That’s why it’s amusing when a chef boasts: “We don’t just swap our menu seasonally but nearly every week”. For chefs of a certain calibre, I expect nothing less. Some of the guys with outsize egos (and assuredly, they are always guys ) like to emphasise this point because it’s also a humble brag. “I have so many new ideas for dishes, they are pouring out all the time,” they say. Sure, being prolific is an undeniable talent. This is why Prince used to release two or three new albums every year, and Stephen King churns out novels non-stop. Gifted chefs are the same. In the old days, restaurants just offered a regular menu and, if the cook was feeling ambitious, there would be a daily specials board. Now, with tasting menus being a big part of elevated dining , it’s assumed chefs will tweak their offerings constantly. Somehow, diners are conditioned to crave the new, too. Just as fashionistas cannot wear the same thing twice, epicureans look down on restaurants that keep the same menu too long. Even fast-food outlets are inventing new options practically every month. Are folks really tiring of McNuggets? Maybe trying the new Ebi Burger with fish will make an awful workday less monotonous. The joy of comfort food is its familiarity, but also, variety is the spice of life . The gastro-conservatives who cling to rigid edicts on authenticity have a valid place in upholding the canon, but we also want to be surprised even when ordering the most classic of dishes. It doesn’t have to be a molecularly re-engineered plate of foam. The first time I was served Peking duck with julienne cantaloupe as condiment was memorable for how delicious it was. I also like it when Chinese chefs switch up sweet and sour pork by using strawberries or lychees instead of pineapple. Chefs exploring Asian twists on classic dishes with yuzu, lemongrass or sriracha can also be quite fun. The itch to cook creatively forks into these two diverse roads. There are those who radically change dishes constantly. The others, who I consider even more obsessive, try to tweak and improve an already well presented and delicious plate. Sushi chefs tend to be this way, refining the precise cut of the fish, finessing the rice preparation and the minute details of the sushi presentation. The creativity is turned inward. In contrast, modernist kitchens look for new themes to revamp whole menus. Both are valid gastronomic pursuits. It’s like asking artists if they prefer starting a new painting every day or refining a piece they’ve been working on for a month. I think it’s actually the same, but different. Some chefs paint the same picture every day. Others explore the same theme but use different colours and techniques all the time. A hamburger cook has to flip a burger the same way each day every day. But a Michelin-starred chef has the luxury of playing with ingredients: smoking the pigeon meat if he gets tired of cooking it sous-vide, for instance. The change in preparation of the meat means the side dishes have to change, too. Maybe scalloped potatoes replace fondant, French beans replace asparagus, and an emulsified sauce changes to a Moscato-cherry jus. Voilà, a new dish. For diners, it’s great to have such variety available, the familiar burger and the ever-revolving pigeon variation. What’s worth remembering is, often the chefs are not changing the menu for your enjoyment. They’re doing it for theirs. Like what you read? Follow SCMP Lifestyle on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram . You can also sign up for our eNewsletter here .