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Why Andre Chiang and Singapore chefs are opening restaurants in China

If Singapore poses some major competition with restaurants opening and closing with alarming frequency, the picture is very different in top-tier Chinese cities.

If Singapore poses some major competition with restaurants opening and closing with alarming frequency, the picture is very different in top Chinese cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Even apart from these, there are tens if not hundreds of other cities hungering for new restaurant concepts.

Mainland Chinese investors readily pump in money for sexy concepts and to lure big names to their turf. Meanwhile, there is an ever-expanding pool of affluent customers who gladly fork out thousands of Chinese yuan for an innovative meal.

(RELATED: How these 3 Singaporeans are making it big in China’s food scene)

Is it any wonder that Singapore chefs are packing up their knives and seeking opportunities and more appreciative audiences in the East? Some recognizable names from Singapore’s culinary scene share their experiences.

  • Jereme Leung, Chef, Entrepreneur, Author, TV Personality

    1. Jereme Leung

    PU BEN by Jereme Leung

    Jereme Leung is no stranger to China’s rollercoaster F&B scene.  Since moving to Shanghai in 2002, he has witnessed how the attitudes of Chinese consumers have changed dramatically over the past 16 years.

    “The market has matured,” he observes. “Especially in a city like Shanghai, the market is pretty competitive and saturated, while corporate spending habits have also changed a great deal under influence from the current government.” Shanghai has more than 60,000 restaurants spanning some 10 regional and 11 international cuisines. In order to stay relevant, food professionals need to constantly adjust to the ever-changing competitive climate. “There is no place for complacency,” says chef Leung. “One needs to reinvent oneself constantly to stay afloat.”

    He himself has made a career out of evolving, with a resume that charts his transformation from chef to television personality, culinary consultant and entrepreneur. His concept restaurants, currently represented by CONRAD hotel, are Ufaa by Jereme Leung in the Maldives; China Blue by Jereme Leung at CONRAD hotel in Manila; Sea Pavilion by Jereme Leung onboard MSC Splendida Cruise; while another establishment is in the pipeline in Macau as part of CONRAD’s restaurants division.

    Although chef Leung travels far and wide for business, he has not forgotten the city that gave him his biggest break in China. He has run the hip and trendy Pu Ben by Jereme Leung in Shanghai for some three years now, featuring the best seasonal produce in China in classic Chinese recipes with a twist in presentation. Chef Leung thinks that one of the key attributes of Pu Den’s success is the superb teamwork and constant fine tuning over the past three years. “Taking over an existing restaurant in a location that is not ideal, while rebranding it is a challenging experience,” he explains. “This can only be done with a lot of work both in the concept development and execution stages.”

    Success did not come easy; apart from having canny business sense, chef Leung has this advice: “Take time to understand the vast country that has different taste profiles and eating habits. For example, fresh fruit is served before the meal in the Jiang Nan region, while typical Chinese business etiquette dictates that all dishes are served at the same time to show respect and to wish for bountiful blessings for the invited guests.”

    2 Wharf Warehouse 5/F No. 579 Waima Road
      Laomatou Huangpu District Shanghai 200010, China
    Telephone: 86 21 6339 1188

(RELATED: A sense of pride: Our Local Chefs Overseas)

This was originally published in The Business Times.