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3/8/2009  

The Biggest Restaurant in the World

June Chua
Three (300) chefs work in West lake Restaurant Changha, Hunan - CHINA  
 
West Lake Restaurant in China Has 5,000 Seats  

The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World explores, well, just that. West Lake restaurant in Changsha in Hunan province supposedly serves 5,000 guests a day, employs 300 chefs and, as you might expect, has a tightly disciplined waitstaff.

The West Lake Restaurant in Changsha, China is listed as the largest one in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Several years ago, British producer Lawrence Elman concocted a special afternoon snack meet-and-greet at Toronto's Hot Docs festival at a local Chinese restaurant. And that's where I came to meet him. Intrigued that I was a food writer, he gave me his card and said he was about to produce a giant series for the BBC about the biggest Chinese restaurant on earth.

Elman's team had a slick presentation – made to promote and get other broadcasters on side. He was also interested in creating a cookbook from the series (Lawrence, I'm still waiting for my call!).

Anyways, Elman went ahead and the result is a four-part 30-minute series (The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World) that has already aired on the BBC in the U.K. as well as the Sundance Channel this summer. It is likely to air some time soon wherever you may live.

Fortunately, for those in Toronto for the gigantic Toronto International Film Festival, you can still catch this delectable production (edited down to an 80-minute film) on Monday September 8 at 2:30 p.m. and Saturday Sept. 13 at 9:15 a.m at the AMC theatre downtown.

RUN WITH MILITARY PRECISION The indomitable Mrs. Qin runs this behemoth of epicurean delights, marshalling a staff of 1,000 with military precision and 300 cooks for her 5,000-seat restaurant.

Staff have regimental-like uniforms are given Communist-inspired drills to chant: "Solidarity equals strength, strength is iron, strength is steel" they intone at one point.

There are a cavalcade of dishes from fried live fish, snake and a signature tofu dish. By the way, it goes through 700 chickens and 200 snakes every week.

Intrigued by Chinese cuisine? Why don't you check out these articles: Hainanese Chicken Rice, Black Bean Soup, Stir-Fried Pea Shoots, Shanghai Pork Noodles, Duck, Baked Fish and Red Cooking.

Some of the highlights of this film include the layers peeled off concerning Qin Linzi's life: marrying her chauffeur and the focus on how she became successful (hint: bureaucratic ties).

There are glimpses into Chinese society, examining the middle-class families that are the bedrock of West Lake's client base as well as the workers, whose struggles to rise from their peasant past meld and clash with the country's economic boom.

EDITOR'S CHINESE RESTAURANT ROOTS Chinese director Weijun Chen is also the cinematographer while New York-based editor, Jean Tsien, was employed to chop and blend the film together.

Intriguingly, Tsien herself grew up in a Chinese resto environment at her father's business in the Bronx. Her are some of her comments posted on the film festival's site:

"Growing up in that environment taught me about endurance, and I learned also that customers are always right. Very similar to editing actually! I always equate my job as an editor to my father’s job as a chef. I have to cook up the best dish with whatever ingredients there are in the kitchen."

The copyright of the article The Biggest Restaurant in the World in Chinese Food is owned by June Chua. Permission to republish The Biggest Restaurant in the World in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.

Read more: "The Biggest Restaurant in the World: West Lake Restaurant in China Has 5,000 Seats" - http://chinese-food.suite101.com/article.cfm/the_biggest_restaurant_in_the_world#ixzz09BnqsNUB

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