People 2 minutes 22 February 2019

The First Day We Got Our Stars: Lam Ming Kin

Trace this Hong Kong native's two-decade journey to a MICHELIN star for contemporary French joint Longtail in Taipei.

Taipei Chef Interview First Day

Hong Kong native Lam Ming Kin is one of the rising chefs specialising in Western cuisines in Taiwan. After setting up Chou Chou, which features French classics, in 2016, he opened contemporary French joint Longtail. Both restaurants were recognised in the MICHELIN Guide Taipei 2018. The former won a Michelin Plate, while the latter took a Michelin star — no small feat to achieve in such a short time.

When Lam received the invitation letter from the MICHELIN Guide asking him to attend the award ceremony in his working attire, he knew it was a sign that he had got the star. Still, a shadow of doubt remained at the back of his mind.

“I was afraid the more you expect, the more disappointed you get,” he said. That nervous feeling finally dissipated as he received the phone call confirming that Longtail had been awarded a Michelin star. “My effort of the past 20 years finally paid off.”
A delighted Lam at the press conference of the MICHELIN Guide Taipei 2018.
A delighted Lam at the press conference of the MICHELIN Guide Taipei 2018.

A Long Way To Success

Lam had been a lot of places in the last two decades. He worked at Vong at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, before moving to Paris for Michelin-starred Apicius and Le Chiberta, which was led by acclaimed French chef Guy Savoy. After that, he crossed the Atlantic Ocean to join Jean Georges’ eponymous then three-Michelin-starred restaurant in New York and was later entrusted by the culinary luminary to be the executive chef of his Shanghai restaurants, Jean Georges and Mercato.

In the end, he decided to settle in Taiwan to establish an eatery of his own. “Taiwan is still new to Western-style restaurants. The operation costs here are lower than in Hong Kong, which allows one to try many different things. If it doesn’t work, you still have the room to start all over again,” Lam noted.

About five years ago, having a Western dinner in Taiwan would most likely mean going to a steakhouse. But many chefs with experiences in the West arrived in the country recently to focus on modern Western fare. This injects a new vitality into the island’s dining scene.

“Certainly, the Western dining culture is still young in Taiwan. It’s a novelty which developed in last few years. Ingredients like ricotta are completely new to many Taiwanese, something they had the first taste just now. In comparison, Western food has undergone decades of development in Hong Kong to reach the current level of maturity. Taiwan needs some time to learn, but I’m sure there would be more and more people who appreciate it,” Lam said.

Lam shared his feelings of the day he got the Michelin star below.

Shrimp sliders, pickled onion, sriracha, arugula at Longtail. (Pic: Longtail)
Shrimp sliders, pickled onion, sriracha, arugula at Longtail. (Pic: Longtail)
When was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?
I got to know about the MICHELIN Guide on the first day I worked in the kitchen. I also worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris and New York before, so I have been familiar with it. It’s the first time I won a Michelin star for my own restaurant.

What was running through your mind when you first heard Longtail had won the stars?
Of course I was happy. I am thankful to my team. Without their cooperation and hard work, it’s impossible to achieve all this by one person. Thus, I went to Chou Chou and Longtail immediately after receiving the award, sharing with them the joy and achievement.
A sense of tropical Latin America is evoked through the banana leaf wallpaper at Longtail’s private dining room. (Pic: Longtail)
A sense of tropical Latin America is evoked through the banana leaf wallpaper at Longtail’s private dining room. (Pic: Longtail)
How did you celebrate?
The first Michelin star is a starting point, not the finish line. We need to concentrate on providing better products and services. Tomorrow is another day.

How will the stars influence your career?
I just take it as it comes. At Chou Chou and Longtail, I will continue to lead my team to create cuisines my guests enjoy. Regarding the future, I’ve got something different than the two restaurants planned even before getting the star.

Do you have any advice for young chefs aiming for Michelin stars?
I don’t open restaurants and create new dishes for the stars, but to give the diners a unique dining experience. I recommend young chefs to solidify their basic skills and remember the first moments when they started cooking. It’s the way to stay passionate and creative.

This story is written by Chan Chun Wai and translated by Vincent Leung. To see the original article, click here.


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