Who is Hao Chen: I am the executive chef and founder of Raku Dining on Bunda Street.
Best recent dining experience: I would say my best dining experience was at LuMi Dining in Sydney. It’s a high-quality restaurant that combines Italian and Japanese cuisine, which is unique and interesting to me.
Favourite cuisine: My favourite cuisine is Italian. I love how they eat a bit of everything and incorporate rich flavours and ingredients like creams, salsas, cheeses and goose liver into their food.
Most embarrassing pantry item: I can’t say I have anything embarrassing in my pantry. I always use everything I buy, so nothing ever gets wasted.
What ingredient can I not live without: As I am also a sushi chef, I can’t live without fish. I love fish. Every year there’s something new in the sea, and there are so many different kinds and tastes of fish and I love having that variety.
Next big thing in the Canberra food scene: I am opening another restaurant next year on Constitution Avenue, Parkes, in the heritage building. It will be a high-end Japanese restaurant with all the materials inside being imported from Kyoto in Japan. We are also going to open function rooms and seating for 200 people, so it’s very exciting and hopefully something that will do well.
Favourite place for lunch in the ACT: Ruby Chinese Restaurant in Dickson because they’re a family-style restaurant that my family loves! They have fresh foods and authentic Chinese food and are always so busy when I go.
My go-to coffee spot in Canberra: Urban Pantry in Manuka is my favourite spot. I love drinking the cappuccinos from there … plus I live in Forrest, so it’s very close to home too!
A must-try on our menu: Our Scampi nigiri with foie gras, soy jelly and truffle oil. You can’t go wrong with it.
Biggest culinary influence: My biggest culinary influence is my mother. She is the reason I am a chef and developed a love for cooking. Once my father passed away when I was really young, I’d always help her around the house with chores and cleaning, and then I started helping her in the kitchen and really found a love for it.
Favourite cookbook: My favourite cookbook is Finding Fire by Lennox Harris (as seen on Chef’s Table). It’s a really unique book that shows how Australian cooking and cuisine can combine and adapt with Chinese, Japanese and French cuisine. It’s very multicultural and interesting.
Who I admire in the Canberra food and wine scene: I admire Sean McConnell, the owner of Rebel Rebel in Acton. He is a very talented and skilled chef and a very hardworking guy. His restaurant is also very good and is in such a great location too.
What’s the special of the week at Raku Dining?: As part of the truffle season, this week, we are making our special truffle dinner with a degustation menu paired with wines. Normally, we don’t do specials, but we change meals occasionally depending on the current season.
Where am I travelling to next: I will be heading to Japan as all our products are being imported from there, so I need to go to the factory and take samples for the new restaurant.
Death row meal: I would have to say my mum’s braised pork belly! It’s so tasty and I love the flavour. There’s something about a mum’s cooking that just makes everything taste better.
My least favourite food: I eat most things, so I can’t say I have ‘a least favourite’ food.
COVID-19 response: With COVID, we completely closed the restaurant. We didn’t even do takeaway because we wanted to keep our staff safe because Raku has around 65 staff members. But now we’re back to normal and we’re very thankful.
My three recipe tips:
1. Always use good and fresh products/ingredients.
2. For me, since I never went to CIT to study cooking or anything (because I had originally studied IT), I’ve learnt that cooking is all about your understanding and cooking philosophy. So you don’t always need to follow the rules, and you can make your own.
3. Keeping it simple is always the best. Don’t use a lot of elements – the less, the better.
Raku Dining is open seven days a week, from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm for lunch, and 5:30 pm to 10 pm for dinner. It is located at 148 Bunda Street, Canberra.