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Under the Chef’s Hat: Chen Xianglang from Four Seasons Nile Plaza’s ‘8’

Under the Chef’s Hat: Chen Xianglang from Four Seasons Nile Plaza’s ‘8’
written by
Omar Yousry

Chinese restaurants are a dime a dozen in Cairo, but only a handful really standout – not least the Four Seasons Nile Plaza’s award-winning ‘8’. Overlooking the Nile at the luxury Garden City hotel, this particular restaurant bares all the hallmarks of a high-end eatery, but there’s something of an x-factor to it that starts all the way back in the kitchen.

We got the chance to sit down with the two people steering the ship, Chef Chen Xiangliang and manager Cherry Valerio to get a sneak peek into the inner workings of what is one of the best restaurants in the city.

Tell us – what’s your culinary journey been like?

Chef Chen: I’ve wanted to be a chef since I was very, very young. I’ve been in the field for twenty five years; I’m from Xuzho, China and I worked as a chef in the Emirates before finally making my way to Egypt. 

You’ve worked at several kitchens at different hotels over the years, how is the Four seasons’ 8 unique?

Chef Chen: 8 is different because we tailor and personalise each and every guest experience; yes, of course we have our menu but at the end of the day we like to cater to the guests’ preferences. For example, we’ve found that lot of guests like the sweet and sour chicken and like it to be heavy on the sauce; so we to adapt to that and do it to the guest’s preference; of course the authenticity is still there.

So is there any Egyptian-ising in the process while keeping the authenticity?

Cherry: I can’t say that it’s Egyptian-ised but it differs, because we’re well established and have a lot of regular guests, who might dine here once or twice a week. We host a lot of business dinners, we receive a lot of bookings for romantic diners and even special occasions. We don’t Egyptian-ise, per se, but through our regulars and the variety of different guests, we adapt based on how they like the dish and their feedback.

Chen: This is what makes working at 8 different – I often worked on certain styles of catering, where I make everything the same. But here, there are often small tailored adjustments and changes per guest or table.

What would you recommend if we came in and asked for something a little special?

Cherry: I can answer that one! He has a specialty fish dish that is native of his hometown. It’s something that he serves to a guest that wants something different. His butterfly fish is it really crispy and a little bit spicy – it’s delicious.

Chen: The squid with crispy jasmine tea is also something that I enjoy making for guests.

They say that even the best chef eats pretty poorly compared to what he/she cooks – what’s your favourite dish to eat?

Chen: I enjoy cooking with tofu for myself. It’s something that I’ve always eaten – a tradition that I’ve brought with me from China.

Cherry, how is Chef Chen’s temper in the kitchen?

Cherry: I haven’t seen him angry or off-his-game and it affect the food, even when things go wrong – he’s a person who lives by the saying, “the show must go on!”

For more on 8 and the Four Seasons Nile Plaza, check out the hotel’s Facebook page or call 02-2791-7000.