I met Roy earlier when visiting Roy's Food Lab. After my meal, we sat down to discuss his culinary journey. Roy Lee began as a chemical engineer traveling between Taiwan and Germany. As his career progressed, he began to feel a sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction. After four years, he set his sights on Europe and began to train in Italy for the next 14 months.
Stephanie: Of all the countries to study, what made you choose Italy?
Roy: For starters, I love the ingredients in Italian cooking, and how these raw flavors are celebrated. While approaching these ingredients, there's a certain respect that needs to be had. It's also incredible to see how Italians preserve original recipes.
Stephanie: What is your inspiration behind your dishes?
Roy: I always begin by hand picking the day's ingredients myself. I believe in returning to our roots of eating in the sense of choosing seasonal ingredients that are farm fresh and sustainable. After gathering these ingredients, I begin to pull together a menu in my head by considering how I can use these elements in Italian cooking.
Stephanie: Are there any challenges you face both inside and outside of the kitchen?
Roy: One of the most important factors of my cooking is how I interact with the guests who come through those doors. Sharing a meal with others is particularly special to me, and having others understand my vision and what I'm trying to accomplish is always a struggle.
Stephanie: Since your background began as a chemical engineer, have you ever considered incorporating molecular gastronomy into your cooking?
Roy: No, not really. While I respect it, I feel like it takes the "food" out of the meal. My favorite part of eating is the warmth that you feel while sharing a meal, and keeping ingredients as natural as possible helps me achieve that feeling.
Stephanie: Lastly, any recommendations for those looking for a good meal in Taiwan?
Roy: One of my favorite local restaurants is 金蓬萊. They serve some of the freshest seafood in Taipei. For a more modern restaurant, definitely check out MUME. They use Taiwanese ingredients in fresh ways to create refreshing dishes.