Experimenting Asian Elements at Science of Cocktails

With food so deeply rooted to the Asian culture, even the Asian chefs referred back to their native palette.

As a huge part of the culture, food and drinks bring Asians together — creating better relationships and friendships. So what better place to discover our next gathering than at the Science of Cocktails?

Celebrating its fourth year, the event has raised more than $600,000 for the Class Field Trip Bursary Program in Canada. Science World’s president and CEO, Dr. Scott Sampson, described Science of Cocktails as “the creative collision of physics, chemistry, and biology to concoct wonderful drinks at the edge of science, and then pair it with food.”

With some of the top Asian chefs and bartenders in Vancouver participating at the event, Cold Tea Collective paid them a visit to learn more about how the Asian culture has influenced their craft and what inspired them to take this journey.

Science of Cocktails annual fundraiser at Telus World of Science.
Photo Credit: Abigail Saxton

Going outside the career norm of doctor, lawyer, dentist, and finance can be a battle against  what Asian parents envision their child becoming. It takes more grit and hard work, and really a passion for the industry.

“Our parents didn’t work this hard for their kids to be doing laborious jobs or working long hours,” said Jenny Hui, executive chef at The Lazy Gourmet.  

Even though many of the chefs received their post-secondary degree, when push came to shove, they followed their heart to pursue the food and hospitality route. When asked what inspired them to follow this path, the common consensus was their desire to make others smile.

For Chef TJ Conwi, the co-founder of Ono Vancouver, it’s “to bring them back to happy moments in their past.”

Chef TJ Conwi shows off his culinary craft at this year’s Science of Cocktails.
Photo Credit: Jessika Noda

In the end, it all comes back to family. From cooking for the elementary school neighborhood to asking Auntie how she makes that soup recipe, cooking comes from the soul. And with food so deeply rooted to the Asian culture, it seems that even Asian chefs, like those at the Science of Cocktails, refer back to their native palette.

After finding herself “asking mom how to make different soups and dishes,” Chef Hui recognizes that this leads not only to learning, but to a collaboration of food and curiosity. So in honour of Lunar New Year, Hui created a five course menu — Chinese style.

Chef Hiroki Hatada, the head chef at Hapa Izakaya, also understands the combination of Eastern and Western elements, realizing that he had “never had a vegan style sushi roll.”

Naturally, he created a roll featuring hummus, avocado, pickled daikon, sea salt, puff rice, homemade miso and serrano sauce, and deep fried onion. A true fusion.

Alternatively, Chef Conwi’s most creative dish was “longanisa” (a Filipino pork sausage) casing filled with Humboldt squid and spice before being sous vide and quickly seared. It was also served with forbidden black rice, homemade banana ketchup, and plantain chips.

Mouths are drooling.

Executive chef Jenny Hui of The Lazy Gourmet.
Photo credit: The Lazy Gourmet

While these chefs have a creative streak for the Science of Cocktails, what do they usually make for dinner at home? It’s right back to Asian cuisine and comfort food.

For Chef Hui, she’ll make “a bowl of congee, some veggies, and even grab a bowl of her aunt’s soup.”

Meanwhile, Chef Conwi finds himself “levitating towards Filipino home cooking: Beans, braised pork belly, fried fish, and my own healthy twist like kale.”

Whether for work or at home, culture plays a big part in the kitchen for these chefs — who also find time to give back to the community, such as the Science of Cocktails, and help children learn more about science and the world around them.

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