Biery on Beijing: U.Va. Chef Offers a Cook's-Eye View on Olympics

August 19, 2008

Aug. 19, 2008 — Chef Steve Biery is taking the cook's tour of Beijing.

Biery, an Aramark Inc. employee who cooks at the University of Virginia's Observatory Hill Dining Hall, is working at the Beijing Olympics, cooking for the press corps covering the games.

Seeking new cooking knowledge in China, Biery has had a variety of experiences, including a memorable dinner at a famous duck restaurant.

"We had a private room and the food was all themed around the Olympics," Biery said via email. "The duck was the best I have ever had."

Not all of his dining excursions have been as positive. "I had a not-so-great experience at a place where there was no English translation for the menu and I just pointed and hoped for the best," he said. "It was not the best, not even sure what it was.

"At least the beer was good."

Beijing also features is also a wide selection of American chain restaurants.

"All of the chains are here — McDonalds, TGIFriday's, Outback and KFC are everywhere," Biery said. "There are also a lot of barbecue places, but not the barbecue of the west. It is a place where the meat is cooked on a barbecue grill in the center of the table."

Biery is learning new cooking techniques and getting to work with some unfamiliar tools.

"I have cooked on a real wok, and it is great," Biery said. "It sounds like a jet engine when it is fired up."

He had also hoped to teach some Western techniques to his Chinese hosts, but has met with less-than-resounding success.

"I have taught how to sauté in a pan," he said. "That is something that they do not do much of because 90 percent of everything is cooked in a wok. They were also a little skeptical about meatloaf, not a dish most of them have ever seen before."

Though he is working long, grueling days, he is in a prime location, near the Bird's Nest, the National Stadium being used for Olympic events. "I must say that it is a very impressive sight to see," he said.

Biery has been in the Chinese capital since early July and reports that the impossible has happened: "Beijing has gotten even more crowded," he said.

-- Matt Kelly