The debut 50 Best BBVA Scholarship winner has overcome family obstacles – and many hundreds of fellow applicants – to grab a life-changing opportunity.
Jessie Liu was never meant to be a chef. As a language student at university in her home city of Taipei, she was destined for a career in international business – at least in her family’s eyes. But the strange allure of the kitchen was somehow too strong for this intelligent and ambitious individual.
After graduating in 2016, and with no formal culinary training, Liu began working in a professional kitchen, much to the initial disappointment of her parents. Last year she moved to Melbourne, Australia, to pursue her dream further, securing a temporary kitchen role at the city’s esteemed Vue du Monde restaurant before moving to her current employer, Eau de Vie.
Her Taiwanese heritage, however, played a key role in helping her become the inaugural recipient of the 50 Best BBVA Scholarship. Asked to create an original dish that reflected her personality and approach, the young chef produced a fresh contemporary version of traditional Zong Zi rice dumplings in memory of her late grandmother.
“My version of Zong Zi offers a nostalgic taste of the traditional meals of my childhood, but I tried to make the dish visually striking and to further enhance the flavours,” she says. “For me, all ingredients are created equal – just like people.”
Liu wins the opportunity to learn from two of the world’s finest and most imaginative chefs, Andoni Luis Aduriz of Mugaritz in Spain and Dominique Crenn of Atelier Crenn in the US. She will also be formally presented with the scholarship at The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 awards ceremony in Bilbao on 19th June, before going on to the two restaurants for six-week stages in each (all expenses paid). She will record her journey – which includes the 24-year-old’s first ever trip to Europe – and share it across the world via 50 Best’s social medial channels.
To secure this life-changing opportunity, Liu beat over 1,000 fellow applicants from 82 countries. As part of the three-round judging process, she submitted two engaging self-produced videos as well as outlining her inspirations, her approach to learning and her long-term ambitions. Finally, Liu impressed the judges in a live interview with her evident dedication, her respect for the world around her and her humble yet determined nature.
“There is significance in everyday ingredients and if we don’t cherish now what’s on our table, one day we will all be in trouble, fighting for whatever’s left,” she says.
“Winning this scholarship is life-changing,” continues Liu. “Despite never having been to culinary school, I can now prove myself as a chef alongside two of my culinary idols. The chance to enter such world-class kitchens is a dream come true.” What’s more, it has helped demonstrate to her family that her true calling is as a chef – and surely a very successful one, too.
Watch Jessie's video submission:
Read tips for how to make the most of a restaurant stage from Crenn, Aduriz and seasoned stagiaire Tom Gatehouse.
Follow 50 Best on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for more on the scholarship and Jessie Liu's experiences.