TRANSLATION | Eugenia Yang
坐落靜謐宜人的台中住宅區，一階階步入 L’Atelier par Yao，映入眼簾的溫潤木質桌椅，如返家般熟稔舒適，廚房中的默契身影藉開放式設計一覽無遺，「以法式料理的精神出發，我的菜會有很多傳統的影子在裡面，再融合自己的生活經驗與旅行體驗呈現給大家。」主廚江曜宇如此說著，僅年屆二十七的他，透過道道翻新的細膩韻味，佐證了他心中不一般的理想抱負。
談起踏上料理之路的契機，江曜宇笑說從小喜歡做菜，隨即進入高雄餐旅接受正規廚藝訓練，原先多接觸中式料理，爾後前往法國廚藝學校交換，輾轉於歐洲星級餐廳磨鍊，也正式開啟了他與法式料理的不解之緣。捎上輕便背包與隨行刀具，一路從里昂、南法、義大利、希臘、瑞典、倫敦再回到巴黎，持續擴充自我視野，「一個人的旅行總會思考比較多，都是在跟自己獨處，會有蠻多不一樣的體驗跟人生規劃。」然而深受疫情影響，原先於法國工作的計畫延宕，卻間接加速了首家餐廳 L’Atelier par Yao 的誕生，法文 L’Atelier 為工作坊之意，亦呼應了江曜宇心中理想餐廳的樣貌，「開一間餐廳不只是主廚一個人，包括職人經驗、器皿使用、環境裝潢等，需要很多不同的角色來完成這件事情，餐廳是一個平台，而我是一個選物的人，需要大家一起把服務體驗做得更完美。」
最初以 Meal Kit 打響名聲，為疫情開業奠定客源基礎，僅使用「兩隻腳」動物作為主菜發想，也讓 L’Atelier par Yao 更顯獨樹一格。對此江曜宇表示，本身很喜歡禽類，尤其法國禽類極具代表性，處理上相對需要更多技巧與巧思，笑答也是賦予自我的一大目標，期望醞釀出與他人不同的多元風味。提及本次春季菜單，江曜宇透露整體添入不少春夏繽紛元素，主菜運用鳳山土雞，調味上使用大量蔬菜提煉醬汁，以蘆筍、白蘆筍、大頭菜呈現清爽味覺體驗，另一亮點則是以番茄為發想的創意前菜，「用不同顏色的番茄，有新鮮的、醃漬的，也有做成番茄水的，搭配日本的櫻花漬，展現春天的感覺。」盡情挖掘食材的無限可能，是他對料理樂此不疲的動力來源。對於每一位踏入 L’Atelier par Yao 的食客，江曜宇冀望能與客人達到雙向交流，「希望他們跟我分享發現了什麼，像上一季我們先請客人品嚐，吃完再來介紹裡面有什麼，換我們去問他們，我覺得這是比較不一樣的方式。」透過轉換餐桌上的主被動權，激發用餐者的探索好奇，實屬味蕾的別樣樂趣。
Culinary New Talent: L’Atelier par Ya
As we step into L’Atelier par Yao, located in the tranquil residential area of Taichung, the warm wooden tables and chairs come into view. As if welcoming its guests home, the harmonious figures in the kitchen are fully displayed through the open space. “With the spirit of French cuisine in mind, my dishes are filled with traditional elements combined with my own life story and travel experiences,” says Chef Yao. At the age of 27, he is already showing the world his extraordinary ideals and aspirations through each and every refined dish.
Rich Culinary Perspectives
Yao’s culinary journey started when he was a kid. Growing up loving cooking, he received professional training at National Kaohsiung University of Hospitality and Tourism, where he initially focused on Chinese cuisine. Later on, he traveled to France for an exchange program and worked at several Michelin restaurants throughout Europe, which sparked his uttermost passion for the French cuisine. With a light backpack and his trusted knives, Yao embarked on a solo journey to expand his perspectives – from Lyon, Southern France, Italy, Greece, Sweden, London, and eventually back to Paris. “You get to think a lot when you are traveling alone. Being in solidarity allows for unique experiences and life planning.” However, due to the pandemic, his original plan to work in France was postponed, which indirectly accelerated the birth of his own first restaurant, L’Atelier par Yao. Meaning “workshop” in French, the name echoes perfectly with the image of an ideal restaurant Yao had in mind. “Opening a restaurant is never just about the chef. It involves various aspects, such as professional experience, choice of tableware, the interior and more. The restaurant is a platform and I’m just a curator. We need everyone to work together to create the perfect dining experience.”
At first, L’Atelier par Yao gained popularity by offering Meal Kits, which laid the foundation for its business during the pandemic. Using only two-legged animals as the main ingredient, the restaurant was able to stand out from its competitors. For this, Yao points out that he loves poultry, especially since French poultry requires more skill and ingenuity to handle. Smiling, he says it was also giving himself a challenge to create an array of unique flavors for his customers. Regarding the spring menu, Yao reveals that he incorporated a lot of colorful spring and summer elements. The main dish used chicken from Fengshan, with a sauce extracted from vegetables – asparagus, white asparagus and turnip – to highlight the refreshing taste. Another highlight of the menu is the creative appetizer inspired by tomatoes. “I used tomatoes of various colors and forms – fresh, pickled and ones made into tomato water – along with Japanese picked sakura to capture the feeling of spring.” Exploring the endless possibilities of ingredients is the source of his passion for cooking. For every customer who enters L’Atelier par Yao, Yao aspires to build a two-way communication. “I hope that they can share with me what they have discovered. Like last season, we asked them to try the dish before introducing what was in it. By asking them questions, I think it creates a different way of how things are done.” By shifting the power dynamic at the dining table, he aims to inspire customers’ curiosity and desire to explore, providing a whole new experience for the taste buds.
Striving for Diligence
Flavors can evoke one’s old memories as there are certain connections hidden between the sour, sweet, bitter and spicy tastes. To find the bond between different flavors, Yao would always draw a sunburst pattern to trace the correlations. Then, he would go back to his past experiences and follow his intuition and reflective thoughts – a novel dish is thus born. Chuckling, he says he is especially fond of the Hakka flavor and is particularly amazed by the subtle changes after fermentation. “A lot of things and seasoning used in Hakka cuisine are self-made, which I find to enjoy, especially stir-fried ginger and intestines.” His preference for the cuisine is demonstrated in the main dish on last season’s menu. Cleverly combining Chinese cuisine and fermentation elements, the pigeon pie was imbued with subtle details that brought a smile to people’s faces. Setting eyes on the future, Yao aspires to create more diverse forms of communication to further inspire different dining concepts. Through connecting various industries, he will then get to expand the depth and breadth of himself and his culinary skills. “This is about the desire for success, for things you want and for serving the perfect dish.” With eyes beaming with an unwavering shine, his hardworking and diligent personality comes into clear view, as we can’t help but wonder about the unlimited potential this new French cuisine talent has to offer.