Name: Zhang Cheng
Chinese zodiac sign: Monkey
Education: I took a college entrance exam and was recruited by a cooking school in Chengdu, Sichuan (the school required a college entrance exam certificate). I learned how to cook western food at this school.
Profession: I’m a sous-chef at Maison Boulud and I’m a cook for almost 10 years. I started my study at the cooking school in 2000 and graduated in 2003. After my graduation, I came to Beijing. I first worked in a hotel and then in a Spanish restaurant. The chef of the Spanish restaurant recommended me to my current employer. I’ve been working at Maison Boulud since its opening 3 years ago. My work hours are from 10 am to 10 pm. There’re some holidays, but they are not on fixed dates. It depends on the situation in the restaurant.
I choose to become a cook because I like working with my hands, but I didn’t like cooking when I was very young.
When you are at home, what is your favorite activity? What do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy playing billiards.
Name three of your daily routine activities:
In my spare time, I’ll go shopping, listen to music and surf the internet. When working, I can only stay in the kitchen. When I take a rest, I’ll go out with my friends.
What is your favorite food?
Though my job is cooking western food, I prefer to eat Chinese food. I like Sichuan cuisine and pita bread soaked in lamb soup (Yangrou Paomo, a famous Sha’anxi dish) is my favorite. However, I love the dishes cooked by my mother best. She cooks very well.
How much money does your family spend on food per day?
This job provides us with meals. In summer, the weather is very hot and we often go for a drink after a day’s work. At home, it takes around 200 RMB a day to cook for my families. The cost depends on what kind of food and dishes I cook.
Where is your hometown? (if not Beijing: do you miss your hometown? if so, what do you miss most?)
Xi’an is my hometown. I miss my home so much, especially the family. I have a very large family, including my grandpa, father, mother, elder brother, elder sister and younger sister. I’m the third child.
Thanks to the convenient transportation links, it’s much faster to go back home now. If I miss home, I can ask one or two days of leave and go back home. The long holiday is always during the Spring Festival.
My home is in the countryside and we always have many visitors during the Spring Festival. I often cook the locally favored dishes to treat them. When I’m at home, I’ll do all the cooking. My parents can enjoy a rest. I cook, while my elder brother serves the dishes to the guests and my younger sister helps around.
I don’t have a girlfriend right now. I’m too busy and seldom have time.
What is your most precious childhood memory?
We had a hard time when I was young. My father went to the market and sold vegetables. He always brought me with him. My father is a farmer who grows vegetables.
What are the three most important things in life for you?
In recent years, my chef in the restaurant is most important to me. We both are Libra and his birthday is just one day earlier than mine. His birthday is on October 13th and mine is on October 14th. We go to the Made in China Restaurant (Chang’an Yihao) and celebrate our birthdays there, ordering traditional Chinese food. In the evening, we once again go for dinner with our friends and celebrate together.
What are, according to you, the values that one needs to live up to in life?
My values in life are to work happily and treat people honestly and sincerely. I don’t know about other people’s ideas on this, but I truly follow these values both at work or in my private life. They are the result of my family education.
My family is very harmonious and happy. Everyone is considerate and cares for others.
Would you say you are a) happy b) somewhat happy c) somewhat unhappy d) unhappy
I think I’m happy. My work goes well and my family supports me. At the beginning of my career as a cook, they were not that supportive. They wanted me to become a teacher, but I made to my own choice.
What do you expect will the future bring for you?
I hope to open a restaurant of my own. Not high-end like Maison Boulud, but in the mid-range. I’m not sure yet what kind of restaurant I’m going to have and what kind of cuisine to serve. Running a restaurant is quite different from being a cook. I have to position it in the right place.
What is your religion?
I believe in Catholicism. All my family members are Catholics. When I take a rest, usually once every two weeks, I’ll visit a church nearby.
Video of the 360 degree panoramic photo
(click full screen icon for best view)
the below video is on Vimeo; banned in China