By: Chun Keung Li, Chef/Owner of Grace Garden –
I have not dedicated too much time in making things fancy at my restaurant Grace Garden in Odenton, Maryland. However, my no fuss approach to restaurant decor is very different from the approach taken for my food. Authentic Chinese cuisine from the Canton and Sichuan regions is prepared on an endless parade of fresh made dishes. There is no magic management plan, just fresh authentic cuisine.
I was born and raised in Hong Kong and by the age of 13 I was working as a culinary apprentice. I was able to learn traditional cooking techniques and was given my first job as Chef at a five star Hong Kong hotel at the age of 25. I came to the United States four years later.
I finally opened my own restaurant after working as a Chef at a local Chinese restaurant for 13 years. That experience gave me the training I needed under a top Sichaun Chef and led to my becoming an executive Chef as well. I knew eventually I would own my own restaurant and this became a reality in 2005 when I opened Grace Garden with my family.
My restaurant is simply designed with a few tables and the standard lazy Susan that allows customers to share my food. That is what it is all about and with my wife and children we provide the two most important elements of a good restaurant which is excellent food and welcoming service.
I have had many articles written about Grace Gardens always sending the message that our food is the focus of our restaurant. This makes me feel proud as I believe that providing traditional foods with authentic Chinese flavors is what brings my customers back. I create foods that people will not experience at other restaurants such as fish noodles that are a very popular item on my menu. The noodles are light and delicious and made with ground fish and then tossed with cilantro, mushrooms and Chinese sausage that is very unique and pleasing. We also make a stir fry using pork belly, which has recently become popular in even the finest restaurants but is something Chinese cooking has used for generations.
There are other dishes people are not sure about ordering but when they try them they are very pleased with the flavor and will ask for another order. We love to bring dish after dish of foods to the table and watch the customers share and enjoy each plate as it arrives. We provide an endless parade of dishes and it is not uncommon for customers to enjoy a specific plate so much they eat it all and order more or to be happy with the food and decide to try a few more items on the menu with their.
This is a very different approach to dining for most people who are more accustomed to perhaps ordering an appetizer, entrée and dessert each served separately. It is a fun experience customers view as unique which makes it an occasion to come here for a meal.