John Chen (
Chen was born and raised by a humble family in Hualian. His parents come from Zhejiang Province, in China. Chen learned the art of cooking when he was 14 and worked as an apprentice at the Three-Six-Nine restaurant (三六九飯館), near the back entrance of 228 Memorial Park. Chen emigrated to the US with his parents in 1980. A few years later, he opened the Garden of Plenty restaurant in Long Island and has built up his reputation ever since.
Chen is an easygoing guy and fun to talk with, which are two keys to his business success. He returned to Taiwan in 1994 and, by coincidence, bought the restaurant where he had his apprenticeship, turning it into a very classy three-story eatery. His private kitchen, named Fantasy Palace (
It was here that Chen shocked the local culinary community in 2004 by being the first chef to present a banquet of marvelous dishes adapted from a very special recipe. The recipe was recorded in a classical Chinese poem that was pictured in one of grand master Chang Da-chien's (
Last year, Chen was encouraged by eminent culinary critic Chu Chen-fan (
Fantasy Garden changes its menu every two to three months and its new dishes are quickly copied by many restaurants all over Taiwan.
"Shanghai cuisine is like a big ocean which takes in different traditions of the Jiang-Zhe cuisine (