citizens crystyl and anthony

Posted on August 15, 2005

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Crystyl n Anthony.jpg

shortcut talks to crystyl mo and anthony zhao, on a recent visit to europe. crystyl is American but works as a
freelance journalist in china. anthony, born and bred in shanghai, is a
Western chef in one of shanghai’s upscale restaurants.

Anthony; What are your first impressions of Europe or your first stop here, Spain?

It’s
very beautiful, but things are extremely expensive. The streets are
very clean, very few people around. It’s pretty much what I expected.
Everything is small and cute.

Maybe I thought it would be more developed, even more perfect. But
right now I am in the country side, so the buildings are old and small,
and that’s a bit of a surprise.

You’re a chef in Shanghai for Laris, an upscale Western restaurant. How did you learn Western cuisine?

By coincidence. I went to an interview at the Portman Ritz Carlton
(a hotel in Shanghai) and they happened to need a Western chef. I
wanted a position without two different shifts and the only one they
had was for a Western chef. I was in training for almost half a year
and then spent another half year learning on the job. All in all there
are 40 chefs in the kitchen, including trainees, and we have about 150
diners every evening.

Western cuisine is relatively simple compared to Chinese cuisine.
And also natural. I like to eat simple food, not full of sauces and
spices. In Western cuisine meat can be cooked rare. That’s not done in
Chinese cuisine. But I am cooking very high-level Western food, maybe I
would feel different if it were lower level Western food. Overall
Western food strikes me as very healthy food.

This is your first visit to Europe. What
strikes you as most surprising about the old continent, or at least
about your first stop, Spain?

The architecture is beautiful. People are very warm and friendly. I
really love the air though, it’s very fresh and comfortable, I’ve never
breathed such fresh air in my whole life.

What’s your verdict on Spanish food?
It’s special. I really like the ham and cheese. The tapas are very interesting.

Usually it’s China that‘s known for being an extremely skilled copycat. Anything Europeans should copy from the Chinese?

Service. They should have more convenient stores and better service
in general. Shanghai’s service is extremely good – the customer is god.
If the customer has a problem, you don’t argue with the customer. You
don’t give an excuse, you give a solution.

And what do you think the Chinese should definitely import from Europe?

The little cars. European cheese also. It’s really expensive to buy
European cheese in Shanghai. But pretty much everything is available
now in Shanghai. It’s just extremely expensive.

Maybe we Chinese could benefit from more civility. Here in Europe
cars will let people pass and generally there’s more respect. In China
everyone will try to go first or be first, Even here in this relatively
poor area (Southern spain), people have manners and abide by certain
rules.

Also, European airports are good – people line up quietly, nobody makes a fuss.

Cystyl: So what are Europeans up to in Shanghai these days?

Making Money. More and more foreigners every year from every
country. Europeans are trying to get a foothold in the market. American
foreign policy is so intractable and backwards toward China – Europeans
are taking advantage of that. Like with the year of France in China and
year of China in France that was organized last year. And Ireland did
this huge cultural festival in Beijing and Shanghai. You see European
governments being very pro-active in terms of promoting their culture
in China. The US does nothing like this. There was a multi-million euro
campaign called “Think UK” throughout China organized by the UK
government.

Any rivalry you sense between Americans and Europeans in China? Who gets the bigger piece of the economic cake?

On a personal level there’s no rivalry at all. Everyone loves to see
other foreigners and there’s no distinction. In terms of business you
don’t sense any rivalry. Europeans definitely want to take advantage of
the current impasse between US and China. But Chinese people still
really worship the US for its economy and entrepreneurial spirit. That
hasn’t been destroyed completely yet. The worst thing for US-China
relations, after 9/11, is the student visa issue. Student visas are
difficult to get, so the best Chinese students go to Britain and
Australia. That will make a long-term difference.

You’re American, you’ve traveled in Europe. Why choose to live in China?

For my job. It’s a very exciting place to be as a journalist.
It’s a challenging and stimulating environment. I like being surprised
by the culture, even after 8 years. Chinese people are incredibly
friendly and generous. Even though I struggle in Chinese, I’ve never
met a people more open to someone barely speaking their language. The
other reason is that I have a very high standard of living. I have a
maid, a personal assistant, I take taxis, I have a cook. It’s all very
affordable in China. A PA costs maybe 400 dollars a month, fulltime.

China is very popular at the moment. What are your favorite things to do or see in Shanghai?

The Bund of course. Explore the new dining establishments there. The
French Concession, art deco and colonial villas. Check out a hole in
the wall Chinese restaurant. Eat very spicy Sichuan and Hunan food,
it’s very popular right now.

As a freelance writer you cover a lot of subjects. What’s a big topic now in China that you’ve been covering?

Contemporary culture. Art and design. Interior design is huge right
now. Everyone’s bought an apartment and is looking to decorate.
Shanghai thinks of itself as very cosmopolitan and it is embracing
international design – all kinds, architecture, fashion, furniture,
advertising. People will start to outsource to China and also, there
will be major Chinese names coming out. In ten years maybe, the quality
of export goods in China is going to skyrocket to high end quality
stuff. That’s the direction it is taking.

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