Erchen Chang loves to create. Brought up in Taiwan she moved to London to go to boarding school, and then study at the Slade School of Fine Art at University College London, because “my passion is in creating. I have fun making things, and at the same time I hope other people have fun experiencing my work”. Hooking up with two other equally obsessed art-student friends, she is behind one of the biggest culinary success stories in London, the award-winning concept restaurant Bao – based around deliciously light and fluffy steamed buns filled with pork, pickles, peanuts, and much else besides – which has just taken up residence in London’s Soho, prompting hour-long queues down the street.
“As with a lot of restaurants these days, Bao started as a pop up, which allowed us to test what we were doing and refine it. The menu is based half on classic Taiwanese dishes that my partner and co-chef Shing Tat Chung and I were brought up on, and half that we have created ourselves. We aren’t formally trained chefs so there is a long development processes that involves lots of creativity, and plenty of trial and error. As well as the food, we also designed the look of the restaurant: we wanted something simple but fun that wouldn’t distract from the food. Our pop-up shack had a very cosy wooden ambience so we wanted to recreate that here. The open kitchen adds to the atmosphere.”
“I travelled a lot around Asia before we set up Bao, so I took lots of inspiration from little details I saw there. I get a lot from nature: the look of a beach or mountain can be truly inspiring. And I’m also influenced by architects and designers, such as Ettore Sottass or Gio Ponti.”
“Soho is such a vibrant area, with countless restaurants and shops crammed next to each other – there are so many great places in close proximity. Bao is on Lexington Street where some of my favorite restaurants and cafes are, including Andrew Edmunds and Fernandez and Wells. And there’s Aesop too, which does such beautiful products.”