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By Leanne Mirandilla | December 17th, 2019

Last month, The Tai Pan restaurant at The Murray hotel transformed its menu from posh modern European to cosier, more casual bistro fare. Spearheading the change is executive chef Terrence Crandall, whose culinary talents are informed by his native USA as well as time spent cooking in fine kitchens across Asia.

How did you get into food and cooking? 

I spent a lot of time cooking with my mother and grandmother. I enjoyed preparing dinner after school for my five siblings when my mother went to work.

What’s your background? What training did you do to become a chef?

I decided to go to culinary school in Chicago after working in a small restaurant and enjoying the action and excitement. After culinary school, I worked for some fantastic Alsatian chefs who taught me new techniques, discipline, and the value of experience. After working two full time jobs for a few years, a former chef called me to move to Hawaii to open a hotel. This was where I was introduced to Asian food and cuisines that I had never tried in Chicago.

What are the most important attributes of a chef?

Passion, organization, creativity, constant learning.

Where do you get your cooking inspiration from?

I am influenced by the environment around me: what food I eat, the ingredients of the region, and the customer preferences. Ideas for new dishes, techniques and flavours all come from my experiences every day. 

How does working in hotel restaurants in the US differ from in Greater China? Are there different expectations from guests? 

Yes, however, they change rapidly in Asia, and especially China. As the exposure to Western restaurants increases, the expectations from the guest constantly changes. For example, there was a time where most people in Asia preferred very soft white bread, but now that there are proper European bakeries here, they are demanding higher quality artisanal breads. 

What are some of your favorite ingredients to cook with? Why?

I have been using a lot of Thai, Indian, Middle Eastern, and other Asian ingredients at the moment, because I like the bright flavours they impart to the food.

What’s one of your favourite dishes, personally? How about favorite restaurant?

My mother’s simple home cooking, and my favorite restaurant is Black Bird restaurant in Chicago for their take on simple American food with interesting flavors.

How did you go about creating The Tai Pan’s new menu?

I wanted the food to be simple and delicious with some unique flavors and textures. I used inspirations from my home country and influences from my experience in different countries to develop the dishes.

Can you elaborate on the influences behind some specific dishes?

The Wagyu beef carpaccio was influenced by the flavors of the southern United States with smoked beef and a spice mix similar to Cajun flavors, cornmeal fried oysters, and oyster mayonnaise. The Hamachi Poke was inspired by my time in Hawaii with a twist on the classic dish and adding some more fragrant flavors of kaffir lime.

Any future plans for The Tai Pan?

The menu will be constantly evolving with new seasonal dishes all the time.

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