Why Chef Jayson Tang of Man Ho Chinese Restaurant sees his Michelin kitchen as a battlefield
19 Aug 2021
A childhood helping out at his parents’ street food stall taught executive Chinese chef Jayson Tang how to connect with both his team and guests at JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong’s one-Michelin-starred Man Ho Chinese Restaurant.
Growing up, executive Chinese chef Jayson Tang of Man Ho Chinese Restaurant at the JW Marriott Hotel Hong Kong used to lend a hand at his parents’ dai pai dong, or street food stall, selling milk tea, sandwiches and other traditional Hong Kong breakfast delights.
Tang vividly remembers how his father took great care to look sharp, dressing in a long-sleeved shirt and trousers even on hot days, and how extremely particular he was with the produce delivered to the stall daily.
“If the materials were not good or not up to his standard, my father would just stop offering the dishes that contain those ingredients on that day,” recalls Tang, clearly bemused. “If the beef was not up to scratch, for example, we’d return them to the supplier and tell the customers that we’ve stopped serving any food items with beef.”
This non-negotiable level of quality control has evidently rubbed off on Tang, as today he helms a 35-person team in the kitchen at Man Ho, a one-Michelin-star restaurant serving Chinese cuisine prepared with both traditionally authentic methods and innovative approaches.
“I spend most of my time at work teaching my team members how to select good materials and how to tell if they are bad,” Tang says. “I, too, have become very strict, so if the vegetable leaves are not of acceptable quality, for example, I will not serve them.”
Regular communication with his team of cooks is the essence of Tang’s leadership style in Man Ho’s kitchen, which he affectionately refers to as a “battleship”.
“I share my knowledge and skills with my co-workers, showing them the processes and imparting in them the standards,” he says. “I demonstrate things to them step by step. I do it in person, and together with them.”
This connection that Tang maintains in the kitchen carries over to the table, as ultimately the team is working to present their very best food to the guests, he says.
Tang is so in tune with the guests’ needs and preferences that he may be one of the few chefs – if not the only one – who claims not to have a personal “signature dish”, as he prefers to work according to his diners’ tastes.
“I often tell people that the dish that impresses the most number of guests is our signature dish,” he says, citing Man Ho’s fresh fish soup with fish maw and assorted seafood, as well as the steamed egg with flathead lobster, dried fish roe and saffron, as examples.
Tang also makes it a point to chat with guests as his shift ends every evening, in order to ensure they had been satisfied with what was served. “Their happiness at the end of the meal gives me great satisfaction.”
This inimitable passion for and joy derived from cooking for others is key to Tang’s calling as a chef.