Top Chef's Shirley Chung Talks Beijing Duck, Bowl of Hugs and What She's Opening Next
She plans to open Steamers Co. in the Arts District next spring.
Two-time Top Chef star Shirley Chung has cooked in all kinds of high-end restaurants, and now she's ready to really focus on making food that celebrates her heritage.
So it's not surprising that the Top Chef Season 14 runner-up will be making Beijing duck wontons for her guest-chef dinner at Mario Batali's Italian steakhouse in Las Vegas. That October 8 dinner at Carnevino will also feature Chung's riffs on scallion pancakes (with hazelnut-and-parsley pesto) and Chinese cured meats alongside traditional Italian dishes prepared by Zach Allen. Both Chung and Allen were part of Carnevino's opening team in 2008.
"I was the opening chef de cuisine," Chung says. "That was my first time leading a restaurant. It means a lot to me. This is a homecoming."
Chung, who also was part of the opening team at Thomas Keller's Bouchon, Batali's B&B Ristorante and José Andrés' China Poblano (where she was head chef) in Vegas, is now an Los Angeles resident who's working on a new restaurant of her own. She plans to open Steamers Co. in the Arts District next spring.
"It's an oyster-bar concept with Chinese soul," Chung says. "You'll see buns and pancakes."
Chung will also be serving what she's calling Bowls of Hugs.
"These are similar to pan roasts," she says. "It's steamed seafood. It gives you that comfort level. The bowls are so warm inside. It feels like I'm giving you a hug. I feel like a lot of oyster bars have a lot of fried food. My menu is definitely different."
Chung is also working on a modern Chinese supper club in downtown L.A. that could open in 2018. In a way, the Beijing duck wontons she's serving at Carnevino could be a preview of something she does in L.A.
"I feel like Beijing duck in America is always served with a bun," she says. "The traditional way to eat Beijing duck is with something really thin like a lotus crepe. A bun is not the way to go. You can't taste the duck properly. The wonton is me taking the idea of serving the duck with something lighter, something delicate."
That's Shirley Chung's food: traditional and also totally modern. Who's ready for a hug?