Brandon Jew; Chinese cuisine; Chinese-American cuisine; San Francisco; farm-to-table; seasonal ingredients; Chase Private Dinner Series; kitchen innovation; food; chef profile
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How one Michelin-starred chef reinvented Chinese-American cuisine

Chef Brandon Jew talks reinventing classic dishes and finding inspiration.

Mister Jiu's is part of the Chase Sapphire® Private Dinner Series, which features curated dining experiences with world-renowned chefs in acclaimed restaurants across the country. Explore the premium travel and dining rewards of Chase Sapphire.

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For Chef Brandon Jew, history is the mother of invention. From the old banquet hall that houses Mister Jiu's, his restaurant in the heart of San Francisco's Chinatown, to his fresh take on wontons and fried rice, he has always paid tribute to the past. Even the name Mister Jiu's is a nod to the original spelling of his family name, which was changed when his grandfather emigrated from China to the United States.

After training in Italy and working for Bay Area haunts like Zuni Café, Quince, and Bar Agricole, Chef Jew wanted to use his family's legacy to change Americans' perception of Chinese food. He moved to Shanghai and culled his knowledge of mainland Chinese cuisine, Chinese-American food, and fresh, local ingredients to open Mister Jiu's.

Mister Jiu's opened to rave reviews in April 2016, earning a spot on many "best restaurant" lists and a Michelin star within the year. Perhaps the most popular item on the menu is his rotating array of colorful potstickers, which use seasonal ingredients like purple cabbage, squid, and carrots.

We sat down with Chef Jew at a recent Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa Private Dinner, where he offered insights on updating classic recipes, finding inspiration, and more. Below is an excerpt of the conversation, edited and condensed for clarity:

Q:| What inspired your passion for cooking?

I became a chef by accident. I was a biology major at the University of California, Irvine, and the only job I could get was as a busboy at a restaurant near campus. At the same time, I started to become interested in food systems and how things are grown. I couldn't afford to go to culinary school, but I could afford to move to Italy for a year, where I trained with Michelin-starred chefs and cooks at small, mom-and-pop spots that take great pride in their regional food.

Q:| What inspired your passion for cooking?

I became a chef by accident. I was a biology major at the University of California, Irvine, and the only job I could get was as a busboy at a restaurant near campus. At the same time, I started to become interested in food systems and how things are grown. I couldn't afford to go to culinary school, but I could afford to move to Italy for a year, where I trained with Michelin-starred chefs and cooks at small, mom-and-pop spots that take great pride in their regional food.

Q:| How do you create your recipes?

It comes down to historical research. I love looking through cookbooks and uncovering a technique or a flavor combination that you never see anymore. I also take a great deal of inspiration from seasonal ingredients and conversations with our farmers. I might take something nostalgic like sizzling rice soup—which I loved ordering as a kid—and infuse the broth with seasonal produce like green garlic, asparagus, and snap peas.

Q:| How do you push yourself to innovate?

My team and I are constantly thinking, "How can we make this dish better?" There's no dish that I'm 100 percent satisfied with. I consider every dish a work in progress that we want to improve.

Q:| How do you put your own creative spin on opening a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, San Francisco?

Each recipe has levels of Chinese-American, mainland Chinese food, and modern techniques. It's our goal to tap into all three sources and represent the ingredients with proven flavor combinations. For example, everyone loves sweet and sour, but a lot of American restaurants use white vinegar and white sugar. There are plenty of sweet and sour flavors from Mother Nature.

Q: | Tell us about these potstickers. How are they different from other restaurants' iterations?

Everyone in America has a relationship with potstickers—even bad versions are really good! I wanted to make a potsticker better than what people have previously had. Part of that is knowing how to work with seasonal produce. There are great colors that are associated with seasons, so I started thinking about the ingredients inside the potstickers and how to represent each season. For spring, we have pork potstickers with fava leaves.

Q:| What's your biggest piece of advice for aspiring chefs?

When learning a new cuisine, commit yourself to a few techniques. Dedicate yourself to very specific skills you can apply to your craft.

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