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New chef to carry on the Jade standard with a classical French twist

"I do what I do - the best cooking," says new classical-French chef Fabrice Giraud who has taken over at Jade on 36 in the Pudong Shangri-La. He tells Aubrey Buckingham about getting back on the culinary map.

The phenomenal Jade on 36 may have suffered a crushing blow when its head chef and talisman Paul Pairet upped sticks and left late last year, but the Pudong Shangri-La is looking to put the luxury fine-dining restaurant back on the culinary map.

This month the Lujiazui property is going back to basics and installing classical-French chef Fabrice Giraud as head of its flagship dining outlet.

With Pairet's new establishment, the ridiculously named and much-hyped Mr and Mrs Bund, opening to much fanfare last week, both Giraud and the hotel know there are remarkably large shoes to fill. Rather than pit themselves against the mad genius of Pairet, however, Giraud will serve more traditional delicacies instead of the avant-garde fare Jade for which Jade has come to be recognized.

The Marseille native is far from fazed with the task at hand. This is not the first time he has had to reinvent a kitchen - when he worked at Hotel Chateau Grand Barrail Lamarzelle Figeac, in Saint-Emilion, he found himself replacing a local legend there too.

"There is room for everybody," he says. "I wasn't afraid because I'm not pretentious, I'm not big-headed. I do what I do - the best cooking.

"(Pairet's style) is totally different and it's not the way that I want to go. But, this kind of cooking opens up the eyes. In the beginning (Ferran) Adria (head chef of El Bulli and pioneer of the molecular movement) kicked our French (behinds). It made us wonder, and (reminded us) not to live on what we had all these years. It was like in the beginning of nouvelle cuisine," he adds, referring to the much-derided lighter style of cooking in the 1970s and 1980s.

This marks Giraud's first foray beyond Europe and into Asia. While he and his wife have traveled extensively, his illustrious career has centered around the top venues in Europe.

In his youth, he got a break when he was given a stint at Hotel Grosvenor House in London, before he returned to France to work under a series of talented chefs and before traveling from Nice to Paris and even the principality of Monaco along the way.

His career blossomed in the late 1990s, under the tutelage of Giles Blandin (who left an influence on Giraud that lasted his entire career). "We were like a dream team" at the Michelin-starred Restaurant Aux Armes de Champagne in the famous sparkling wine region, he said.

It was also around this time he had a firm appreciation for fine wine from all over the world, knowledge that will be invaluable with the Shangri-La's dedicated wine program.

"When I worked in Champagne I learned a bit of wine knowledge. For them it wasn't just the mentality that French wine was the best. I remember so many wines (from across the globe) that we tasted and I thought, 'Poor us, if we think French is the best'."

One of the challenges the 54-year-old Giraud has to overcome is to translate his style of cuisine classique to the city. Again, the youthful-looking veteran is non-plussed, and is ready to adapt to the lay of the land.

"My goals are the same in France - I want to build a good team. We're choosing the local suppliers because I think I can find some good food in China. The beef I had a la carte in France was Black Angus beef, not the French one. So when I came here for food tasting, I tried Wagyu beef from Australia and it was wonderful. (The hotel) already imports most of its products so I'm going to try them.

"Locally the scallops are good, and I've tried the pomfret - very tasty."

The chef is adamant his menu will not be stuffed with big-ticket items. He talks of cold cream potato soups and free-range chickens - hardly peasant food but not quite sheer indulgence either. His twist will be in the employment of modern techniques; his chicken, for example, will be cooked sous-vide (sealed in a vacuum) to maintain flavor and moisture.

Jade on 36 is all about luxury, however, and Giraud will still be imparting some finer touches to proceedings as well. One of the dishes he carries with him and of particular interest to local gourmands is foie gras poached in red wine, wrapped in vine leaves and sprinkled with wine salt.

"In the old days as people sailed down the river, they would spit wine on the salt; one day a sailor tells his wife the recipe and she used it in her restaurant. If I can't get it here, I'll make my own by boiling salted wine until it evaporates and the crystals remain." A brilliant twist to a local fave.


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