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Cutting Remarks

China’s answer to Gordon Ramsay whips a class of would-be chefs into shape

Author Mark Andrews Illustration Luci Gutiérrez

disoatches3BEIJING – Eight fretful Westerners stand around a long table in a tree-shaded Beijing courtyard, struggling with their dumplings. The students are here to learn cooking techniques from Chunyi Zhou, the petite 42-year-old founder of Hutong Cuisine, which CNN has called one of the world’s great cooking schools.

Zhou, who hails from a long line of chefs, may lack the global recognition of foodie darling Ching-He Huang, but she commands plenty of respect in China’s culinary circles, along with a little trepidation among her students. “Hold the knife like a crab,” she says to a Canadian woman named Viki, frowning at the fragments of scallion and ginger on her board. “Thinner!” she yells at a student rolling dough. “We’re making dumplings, not a pie!”

Finally, with the fillings chopped and the casings rolled out according to Zhou’s specifications, the dumplings are ready for boiling. After eight minutes, they are plated, and Zhou moves slowly along the line, sampling each one with vinegar and chili dipping sauce. “Hao chi!” she says at one point—“Delicious!”—eliciting broad smiles from the would-be chefs. And then, in a heartbeat, things go from sweet to sour. “Call that minced?” the chef barks at an American man, causing him to rock back on his heels. “You should go back to school and learn English!”

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