A Chef Who Doesn’t Like Sweets

Sick of the mundane, one local chef leveraged his love for cooking and brought Dongguan a variety of desserts they never thought possible.

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Cross the hulking, orange bridge in Wanjiang and enter into a part of the city that looks like all the others: apartments, factories and compact storefronts. Turning off into one unassuming side street, look up. A tiny sign marking “The Lun” tells you that you’re in the right place.

As you climb the stairs, prepare to change dimensions after venturing through the entrance. Inside is an upscale, café-esque shop with pictures and newspaper clippings lining the entryway. Paper roses made by owner and chef Lun Hao Yu (伦浩宇) tastefully decorate the dining room.

Plenty of places in Dongguan make desserts. Bite-sized bakeries dotting the city have been competing with the international hotels’ petits fours for years now. If you’re groaning at the prospect of just another shop joining the mix, pause for a moment while you try a dessert that’s been deconstructed.

The Lun, which opened in 2013, is run and managed by a brother-sister duet with a single goal in mind:

“I focus on dessert and try to make it perfect. I know more and more people spend a lot of money on promotion, but I want to focus on the basics since we are only doing dessert. The way I promote is to win universal praise,” said Hao Yu.

Plenty of places in Dongguan make desserts. Bite-sized bakeries dotting the city have been competing with the international hotels’ petits fours for years now. If you’re groaning at the prospect of just another shop joining the mix, pause for a moment while you try a dessert that’s been deconstructed.

See, Hao Yu is a self-trained molecular gastronomic—a modern cooking style that manipulates food’s natural physical and chemical attributes—chef. Also, he doesn’t like desserts.

“I love cooking, but don’t like desserts. I prefer fast food. Actually, I like to make desserts because I like beautiful things. I also want to make it extremely good. If even I like something I create, I’ll know it’s good.”

While we talked, he rolled out course after sweet course, which all involved real litchi as a base flavor.

“Normally, my inspiration comes from daily life. I not only put litchi in today’s creations, but also Mangosteen because in food therapy, their characteristics are opposite. I don’t only emphasize an appearance, though, but also care about how different ingredients mix together.”

Also using dry ice, a litchi infused cocktail eerily exhaled smoke across the table. A tart combined a variety of fruits and fresh herbs grown on their balcony. Even the tea on the table was made from litchi. This was the theme for the day, but the key ingredient is always changing.

“I never had any professional culinary lessons. As a result, I am more flexible and can easily ignore the common dessert styles. Not long ago, I attended a competition in Shanghai where I was the only non-professional participant. The other chefs were highly skilled and trained, and I believe the only reason I won was because I’m different.”

Despite his success, it’s been a struggle to find locals who truly understand and respect the innovativeness of his work.

“These days, I’d like to go to France and have a look at how they make desserts. I don’t really like Dongguan because I don’t think people here can appreciate my desserts. Most of them will only think, ‘Wow that’s expensive, so it must be good.’”

Now, the stakes for The Lun’s future are high. It’s all or nothing.

“My whole family disagrees with me doing this, so I made a deal with them. If I can’t find success in three years, I will come back and take over the family business, even I don’t like it.”

For anyone who’s guided by their sweet tooth, let’s hope this doesn’t happen.

Category Who Would Know