In 2014, world-renowned Taiwanese chef André Chiang wanted to give his home country a big gift. He wanted to create a restaurant helmed by native chefs with a focus on local ingredients. What Chef Chiang built became more than just a restaurant. RAW became a platform for showcasing all things Taiwanese. While maintaining a foundation in French cooking but with a focus on locally sourced ingredients, RAW proudly represents how beautiful and tasty Taiwan’s food can be. RAW also acts as a training ground for young Taiwanese chefs. After setting up the restaurant, Chef Chiang gradually handed the reins to Chef Alain Huang and the next generation of young, ambitious talent.
RAW’s beautiful eight-course menu is an exploration of Taiwan’s unique terrain and micro-seasons. Taiwan’s weather changes very quickly, creating 24 micro-seasons throughout the year in two-week intervals. The restaurant only serves produce that can be harvested during each specific micro-season, then waits until the following year to utilize the same crop. As an agriculturally fertile land with direct access to the ocean, Taiwan is a bountiful country where you can get your hands on pretty much anything. RAW seeks to show off the amazing quality of locally grown products and elevate those ingredients like never before.
“In Taiwan, we have so many good things here. Before in Taiwan, we didn’t have this kind of restaurant. All the French restaurants just used French ingredients. Everything was imported. But for RAW we started to use Taiwanese ingredients. The first year, it was really tough because none of the chefs understood or it was challenging because they thought Taiwanese ingredients are cheap. No one tried to create something special with very local things, very common things that are easy to get. Even the very humble sweet potato, we transform that into different dishes on our menu. This is our responsibility as a chef. We need to adopt things and create and find out the flavor combinations of where you’re from.” – Chef Alain Huang
Every dish is eclectic and elaborately constructed. The star of each course is an ingredient unique to Taiwan, whether it’s Taiwanese vanilla, fermented laba beans, aiyu jelly or the freshest abalone and prawns you’ll ever taste. Always something that visitors never would’ve crossed, in a way which locals have never experienced before. The chefs contemplate deeply when brainstorming dishes. They delve into Taiwan’s history to research unique ingredients and often go on excursions to learn how to prepare foods following longstanding culinary traditions. Their personal stories relating to food are also used to inspire dishes, so that the kitchen staff feel a strong connection to everything that they make.
“Before, we had a small snack. It was like an egg cooked in tea leaves. We have one staff member whose family was in the tea egg business. When she was a child, every day she just saw her parents selling eggs. When I heard that, I thought maybe we can create a dish that represents her family’s business. For our staff, they’re going to have more emotion with the dishes so that they know to treat the dish more nicely. It’s not like we’re just cooking all the ingredients together. They have an emotional tie.”
RAW’s space makes an impression that’s just as profound as the food. The centerpiece, which is impossible to miss, consists of huge undulating sculptures made of Taiwanese pine. The sculptures are meant to be clouds which represent Taiwan’s natural climate and took 30 tons of pine trees to make. Just like the food, the space strikes a balance between nature and craft. RAW strives to craft something beautiful without erasing the nature of every native ingredient.
Just as Chef André Chiang intended, RAW is a true gift to Taiwan and the rest of the world. Its dedicated philosophy of highlighting and elevating native ingredients is profound and trailblazing. RAW is a singular experience that illuminates everything unique and beautiful about Taiwan.