Recently I watched a four part documentary titled “The Biggest Chinese Restaurant in the World”. It is a behind the scenes tour of the West Lake Restaurant (西湖楼 or Xihulou) in the central Chinese province in Hunan.
The restaurant has about 70 rooms, employs over 1000 people (including 300) chefs and can serve 5000 people concurrently. During the series we got to know the owner, Mrs Qin Linzi and how she built up the business despite the hardships of her youth. The young men and women who work as waiters are interviewed as well as the HR manager and section managers. Through these interviews I learnt about life in China and the struggle to make a living.
I was quite shocked seeing how ducks and fish were killed and prepared. In one scene a man stabbed a duck with a chopstick then reached inside and ripped out its heart. Another scene showed a competition where the chefs had to cook a fish but present it so the fish was still breathing. The end of the fish was deep fried then served on a platter with a sauce, with the gills beating and the eyes staring at the camera. I think I would choose the vegeratian options in this restaurant.
What was most interesting was the episode about the wedding of a waitress from the restaurant and another episode about the celebration of the first month anniversary of a baby. I learnt about the costs and customs of courting (many red envelopes given to the bride’s family), the wedding ceremony and banquet and how a mother spends her first month inside her home.
If I am ever in Hunan I would be interested to visit the restaurant but choose carefully from the menu.
Visit the Xihulou web site if you can read Chinese. Here is a trailer for the series on YouTube.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0VXQQrvEAY]