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New sizzle at Blue Frog

By Liu Zhihua | China Daily | Updated: 2015-09-29 08:28

New sizzle at Blue Frog

The mapo burger is one of the innovated burgers at Blue Frog Bar and Grill.[Photo provided to China Daily]

The popular chain's longtime executive chef embraces mapo tofu and other exotic elements for the burger-driven menu, Liu Zhihua reports.

At the age of 37, Shanghai native Lin Zhengu has become a star as a Western cuisine chef in the Chinese metropolis, a city that has a wealth of Western restaurants.

The executive chef of Blue Frog Bar and Grill, a popular burger-based restaurant and bar chain on the Chinese mainland, Lin is the soul of the restaurant franchise's team of more than 550 chefs. Many of the franchise's most popular dishes are his brainchild.

Lin says his secret of success is innovation rooted in experience: He spends months every year traveling and eating worldwide, seeking new ingredients and inspirations that could improve the offerings of Blue Frog restaurants.

The restaurant chain regularly launches a new seasonal menu, usually featuring eight new dishes with fresh ingredients. The best-selling seasonal dishes later replace the least popular items on the regular menu, which is usually updated in late fall and boasts a selection of about 40 dishes.

"Food should have no boundaries," Lin says. "As long as the food tastes good and is healthy, it doesn't really matter where it originates or how it is cooked."

Lin likes to give the American-style restaurants' menu some culinary touches from other countries, such as China and Mexico, and customers love such innovation, he says.

He started his career as an apprentice in a Chinese kitchen in 1993. By chance he learned from a French chef in 1994, and soon became enamored with the world of Western food. During the next couple of years, he received strict training in Western culinary art from French, Chinese and German chefs. That was rare for a Chinese chef in the 1990s, he says-and so was being a Chinese chef who spoke fluent English.

When an American entrepreneur invited him to join in his startup Blue Frog in 2000, Lin didn't hesitate to resign from a five-star hotel to work in the new restaurant with just five chefs, eager to explore the excitement of a life that had yet to unfold.

Since that Shanghai launch, Blue Frog has opened 24 branches in seven cities across China, including Beijing, Tianjin, Chongqing and Nanjing in Jiangsu province.

The new menu for this fall, which was launched in early September, showcases how flavors of East and West meet to create a variety of delicious burgers and other entrees in the cozy, soft-lit restaurants.

I liked the mapo burger best. Just imagine the flavorful combination of the hot, mildly numb-spicy mapo tofu sauce and grilled 100-percent Australian beef patty, along with a slice of cheddar cheese and a side of french fries.

The savory sauce helped highlight the patty's juicy, tender texture and its delicious beef flavor. Matching that Sichuan flavor with cheese created a new taste experience.

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