Is food political? Absolutely. There are a total of 90 Michelin-star establishments in The Michelin Guide Hong Kong Macau 2019 guide alone, yet despite exceptional chefs like Chan Yan Tak of Hong Kong’s Lung King Heen receiving the coveted three stars, there are only a few dozen Michelin-starred Chinese restaurants anywhere in the world, most of them in luxury hotels. Another restaurant ranking, the World’s Best Restaurant list, includes just one Chinese restaurant: The Chairman, also in Hong Kong and led by chef Kwok Keung Tung. Which Hong Kong and Macau restaurants made OAD’s top 100+ in Asia? Fine dining Chinese and Asian chefs often don’t receive the same media coverage as their Western counterparts despite being highly skilled and even revered in their own countries, and despite the growing trend of Asian restaurants opened by Asian chefs such as Momofuku’s David Chang and Fresh Off the Boat creator Eddie Huang, both in the US. Asian food does not lend itself to fine dining Jock Zonfrillo, judge, MasterChef Australia MasterChef Australia judge Jock Zonfrillo recently sparked a backlash when he said, “Asian food does not lend itself to fine dining.” Even more unfortunate was that a fellow judge , a food writer with Asian roots, nodded in agreement. No more rock star chefs – fine dining after coronavirus In New York, Lucky Lee’s, a fast/casual Chinese restaurant, closed in less than one year, despite a flourishing start to the business, after the two non-Chinese American owners marketed the restaurant as a modified and “clean” option to Chinese-American recipes. Swift pushback followed on social media for cultural appropriation. So how did Chinese food become the poster child for “dirty”, unhealthy or unsophisticated food in Western societies? According to restaurateur and owner of Unlisted Collection, Loh Lik Peng, who owns Chinese restaurants including Majestic Bay and Jing Seafood in Singapore, exposure is key to breaking stereotypes. “Many Western critics don’t quite understand why Chinese food comes in the form it does. Why do the Chinese eat chicken or duck feet, or why the organs of an animal might be considered the most prized and delicate part? They see jellyfish or fish heads and this sort of food is alien to them. That’s fair enough because they didn’t grow up eating food like this,” says Loh. Michelin-starred Hong Kong restaurant deliveries head-to-head He continues, “None of this is necessarily ill intended; it’s just a lack of understanding of the other’s culture. Eventually people become more adventurous with their dining and gradually become more attuned to another’s culture and diet after more exposure.” One of Germany’s top chefs, three Michelin-star Thomas Bühner, exemplifies how exposure brings understanding, not appropriation. “I have been to China several times and love the Chinese cuisine as it is so aromatic and product oriented. I very much admire the knowledge about products and the impact they have on our bodies and minds. And also, the centuries-long tradition that goes along with this,” says Bühner. Would you eat bugs for dinner if a Michelin-starred chef prepared them? Chef Maxime Filbert of two Michelin-star restaurant Ecriture in Hong Kong agrees cultural immersion can bring more appreciation. “There are a lot of Western people who don’t understand the sharing-style concept in Chinese fine dining, as they are used to being served their own individual dishes. Although, in the past in France, the Grande cuisine was also all about shared dishes. I think Chinese restaurants really carve out a huge space in the fine dining world,” says the French native. Vicky Cheng, executive chef of Vea in Hong Kong, fuses Asian roots with Western cooking philosophy. He uses his training under famous Western chefs to craft the finest locally sourced Chinese ingredients into Chinese/French delicacies. “I don’t think it’s on a global level yet, but I foresee fine Chinese to be the next big thing,” he says. Which luxury brands have opened restaurants and hotels in Asia? Having successfully reinvented some Chinese dishes, Cheng explains, “Never change the tradition or try to be creative unless you’ve taken your time to study and learn to cook it the traditional way. Only then you have the right and knowledge to reinvent.” For Vicky Lau of one Michelin-star Tate Dining Room in Hong Kong, understanding history and being able to innovate a generational recipe has the power to elevate Chinese cuisine: “Chinese cuisine is wide and highly technical and is far more superior than many cuisines from creativity, use of ingredient to art and craft balance,” says the chef. “It is true that, over the years, a lot of cheap Chinese cuisine has arisen overseas due to immigrants but this is by no means a reflection of Chinese food.” “Every Chinese chef knows how to cook, but what differentiates a Michelin-star Chinese restaurant from a basic Chinese restaurant is the pursuit of perfectionism,” says Chef Paul Lau Ping Lui of Tin Lung Heen. Want more stories like this? Sign up here . Follow STYLE on Facebook , Instagram , YouTube and Twitter .