A. Wong: First Chinese Restaurant to Received Michelin Two-Star outside Asia
Photo: ©Michelin.Murray Wilson, Official Instagram
Chef Andrew Wong’s London restaurant did not just welcome the new year, but also two Michelin stars, becoming the first-ever Chinese restaurant outside China with the distinction. He shares his victory with his staff and all the Chinese restaurants that came before A. Wong.
A.Wong is the type of restaurant that is not scared to combine traditional Chinese food with the luxuries of the modern culinary world.
Surprisingly, extravagance is not the only strong suit of Chef Andrew Wong that made his restaurant a recipient of two coveted Michelin stars. What makes the 39-year-old chef truly special is his perspective on how he can honor the past through his cooking.
“When I heard my restaurant, A. Wong, had won a second Michelin star, I was speechless. We’ve always done things our own way, never following trends, so to be the first chef at a Chinese restaurant outside Asia to win two stars is a massive honor,” he shared.
A Family Restaurant
A. Wong was started by his parents in the 1990s. To say Wong grew up in his family’s restaurant would be an understatement.
“It was the place we went to after school, we ate staff food with the whole team and we were effectively locked in the office while our parents worked at night-time.”
Before he reopened his family’s business in 2012, he studied anthropology at the London School of Economics. His educational background inspired him to spend six years in China for research. There, he voraciously studied Cantonese cooking and explored how he can refine the dishes he discovered in China’s provinces.
“What I come back to is the original recipe for soy chicken, Peking duck, crispy pork belly, suckling pig, dim sum—all these dishes that I thought, being an arrogant young chef, I could do better,” Wong said. But later on, he realized that the essence of each dish should be aligned with history.
His background and unique approach to food has enabled him to transform simple dishes like dim sum, which took him a decade to perfect.
“Historically, there was around 2,000-3,000 dim sum, though the world is fixated on just 50 items on every menu,” he shares, explaining further that dim sum is not just dumplings, but any small plates that can include soups and pickles.
Coping with the Pandemic
In an era where Asian-targeted racism is rampant, Wong is not afraid to shine a light on the backlash against Asian culture today. According to him, the number of diners in his restaurant initially dropped. But after the reopening of restaurants during the second lockdown, people came back.
This is when Wong realized that Chinese cuisine, much like other international cuisines, is deeply ingrained into the UK culture.
“The history of Chinese immigration and diaspora is very long in both countries,” he said.
Art and Food
Chef Wong is also thinking outside the box during Chinese New Year. To build bridges and educate more people about Chinese culture, he wrapped the entire restaurant in a vinyl mural by artist Gordon Cheung.
The installation titled “The Year of the Ox” is inspired by the exchange between the multimedia artist and the chef about their heritage. When customers and onlookers see the art through an app, it comes to life: the ox glistens, and flowers grow. This also symbolizes the changes that are set to happen in the future.
It may be unexpected for British diners to look for comfort in traditional Chinese dishes, but that’s exactly what A. Wong enabled. By exploring Chinese cuisine, Chef Wong has won over the hearts of diners, and his Michelin stars are just icing on the cake.