Richie Lin: Taiwan at the table
From a quick glance at the man and his path, you might think that Richie Lin is just another young chef obsessed with local produce; someone who did a stint at Noma and now simply applies Nordic philosophy to the ingredients of Taiwan – the country where he opened his first restaurant four years ago as both its chef and owner. But when you take a seat at Mume, you discover that there is much more than militancy. You find yourself, above all, before an amazing delicateness in the way the dishes are composed and in their cooking times, even more than what you’d expect from Eastern sensitivity, yet what stands out above all is the superb produce he works with.
Lin, who soaked up a love for cooking at home alongside his mother and sisters, but did not study the profession until after earning a degree in marketing, has given his restaurant the name of the national flower of Taiwan – plum blossom – and which are the same Chinese characters as his mother’s name; a clear commitment of principles and intent. Taiwan is not his homeland, but for him it symbolizes freedom, a blend of cultures of the different regions of China and of Japan, the history of an island that has always belonged to aboriginal tribes of Malaysian stock, but that was European before being Chinese. An island filled with unique produce from the sea and the mountains that he seeks tirelessly from local producers.
Richie Lin, together with his colleague Nur Long Xiong and Australian pastry chef Ken Ward, founded Mume in 2014 to create a project that effortlessly combines Chinese, Japanese and European techniques, putting them at the service of specifically Taiwanese produce, such as amadai, a fish similar to red snapper; red quinoa; an exclusive mountain pepper called maqaw; and peaches from Mount Lala.
Theirs is a singular exercise whose aim is to transport diners to a family atmosphere – as if invited into someone’s home – offering an exciting cuisine made sometimes using truly simple produce. Lin has already earned his first Michelin star, and Mume is ranked 17 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list.
By Benjamín Lana