Huami Chef Serving 'A Taste of China' for Auckland Restaurant Month

Jeff Tan, the chef behind SkyCity's newest restaurant, promises to dish up a meal to remember for Auckland Restaurant Month


Jeff Tan is the chef behind SkyCity's newest restaurant, Huami. Picture / Supplied

If every picture tells a story, Jeff Tan can portray 100 edible ways of spinning a yarn. And getting a job in the process.

Jeff is the head chef at Huami — SkyCity’s new Chinese restaurant. Food is his everything: he’s catered to royalty; five-star has been his forte. He has the international gongs (Chinese best chef) and addresses (Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Malaysia) to go with his admirable reputation.

In his rare spare time, he also likes to take photographs. And so it was that when invited to apply for the job at Huami, Jeff flew in with a very fat folder, containing pictures of his dishes — all of them cooked, styled and photographed by himself.

He got the gig in no time. And it is here at Huami, whose opening statement lies in the grand red double doors on Federal St, that his work now shines. Consider the menu: “Buddha jumps over the wall soup” is but one mention from myriad offerings that feature Cantonese, Sichuan and Huaiyang dining styles.

Restaurant manager Kai Zho says: “Jeff is very flexible in his treatment of the menu, but he still wants to ensure the flavour is the same.”

Malaysian-born Jeff tells a story of attempting to roast a chicken at home when he was 11. He tried to copy efforts he’d witnessed with other foods — which meant there was a lot of oil involved, he laughs. “The outcome was not that great.” It also probably did not help that Jeff’s mother was a vegetarian.

READ New Opening: Huami, City

She described her boy as a mischievous and curious child who always challenged her in the kitchen. Certainly, he’s polished his efforts since. Jeff embarked on his professional career at 15. “I like cooking everything,” he says.

And now you’ve got an opportunity to sample his wide smart-dining repertoire. If you haven’t already tried Huami, you can celebrate its greatness on Wednesday, August 23, as part of Auckland Restaurant Month. That’s when Jeff, together with master sommelier Cameron Douglas and Masu’s Nic Watt will be presenting ‘A Taste of Great China’.

When we visit, the menu is still being finessed. One thing is for sure, however: Peking duck will be the hero, promises Jeff.

The way they do it here gives it some strong local links: the birds are from Cambridge, they get fed for 62 days rather than the conventional 40 and they’re freshly chilled, not frozen. See for yourself: the glassed-in duck-drying room is a feature of the restaurant.

Jeff has not been in the country for much longer than the restaurant has been open. But he’s relishing his new home. A keen fisherman, he is also enjoying exploring the angling opportunities available here. And there’s plenty to photograph too. Soon his wife and young child will join him, which will make life all the more sweet, he says.

Speaking of sweet: make sure you keep an eye out for one of Jeff’s particular pride and joys: the steamed ginger soy bean custard.

His repertoire has expanded considerably since his first attempt at home-cooked chook. He says he’s capable of some 500 dishes. This should come in handy if you have any special requests: if it’s not on the menu, he can no doubt turn his hand to it. And indeed he would. “I never say ‘no’ to a customer.”

The man who has catered to kings and heads of state says he has no favourites in the dining room. Everyone deserves equal status, he maintains.

• A Taste of Great China, August 23. Huami, SkyCity. Tickets are $175. To book, visit Heartofthecity.co.nz

DON’T MISS:
The trouble with all the rich pickings Auckland Restaurant Month offers is narrowing your choice. Here at Viva, we’re trying to help in the big decision-making process. These are our suggestions for this week:

Street Eats with Holden Spark This one’s going to be huge! Shed 10 takes on an international flavour as restaurant teams come together to present their take on the hottest global street food. Music, food every which way, a live street art installation — there’s something for everyone. And it runs from morning to night. Saturday, August 19, 10.30am-8pm. $5 entry, free for supervised children. Two free entries per American Express card member.

Theatre of Life The Auckland Art Gallery hosts a free film depicting the story of Refettorio Ambrosiano — a soup kitchen conceived by renowned chef Massimo Bottura during the Milan 2015 World Fair. Using the food wasted from the fair, he invited 60 of his peers to cook for the homeless and refugees of Milan. Feast your eyes and feed your spirit.
Auckland Art Gallery, Sunday, August 20, 1pm. Free.

Sustainability at Scarecrow A dinner specially dedicated to the unsung heroes of the sea is being hosted at Scarecrow. Auckland’s inner-city urban farmers’ market and kitchen will dish up the forgotten fish: the sustainable ones we usually pass over. The dinner is called ‘The Little Things in Life’. For $65 you’ll get seven pescatorial courses (additional wine pairing: $35) and canapes on arrival. August 26, 7pm. Scarecrow: 33 Victoria St East. Tickets available at iTicket.co.nz

• For more events and how to book, visit Heartofthecity.co.nz

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