Blue Pavilion Leeds: Head chef shares 'alleviating' power of food on homesickness during Chinese New Year

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A head chef of a fine dining restaurant in Leeds has shared the importance of food during Chinese New Year.

Leeds chef Benny Lee says Chinese New Year holds “immense cultural and personal significance” for him. 

The 46-year-old has been working in the food industry as a head chef for the last 13 years.

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He has now brought his extensive culinary experience in the fine dining Chinese world to Leeds, leading Blue Pavilion in the Merrion Centre. 

Head chef Benny Lee of Blue Pavilion shares the 'alleviating' power of food on homesickness ahead of Chinese New Year. Photo: Blue Pavilion Head chef Benny Lee of Blue Pavilion shares the 'alleviating' power of food on homesickness ahead of Chinese New Year. Photo: Blue Pavilion
Head chef Benny Lee of Blue Pavilion shares the 'alleviating' power of food on homesickness ahead of Chinese New Year. Photo: Blue Pavilion | Blue Pavilion

And this is a big week for the new £3m restaurant as it marks one of the most important dates in the Chinese calendar - Chinese New Year. 

Falling on February 10, Benny said that the special day is “a time for family reunions, reflection, and fresh beginnings".

And Benny said he hopes the Year of the Dragon will allow him to “continue pushing culinary boundaries, creating memorable dining experiences for our guests, and further promoting the rich heritage of Chinese cuisine at Blue Pavilion".

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The chef added: “Traditionally, Chinese New Year is celebrated with a lot of good food, lion dances, fireworks, and the exchange of red envelopes (hongbao) containing monetary gifts. Families gather for reunion dinners and pay homage to ancestors.” 

Food, in particular, is of the utmost importance and plays a “central role” in Chinese New Year celebrations, Benny added. 

Dishes eaten on the special day can vary across regions, but it is common to make dumplings and nian gao, a sweet rice cake. 

Benny said: “Food symbolises prosperity, luck, and abundance. Special dishes are prepared to usher in good fortune and happiness for the coming year. 

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“For example, we have fish in Chinese New Year because we believe eating fish will increase prosperity for the upcoming year.

"Food plays a crucial role in alleviating homesickness, especially during significant cultural celebrations like Chinese New Year."

And this year, Blue Pavilion is hosting a special menu, as well as cultural entertainment including dancers, lion dances and a live DJ, from Thursday, February 8 to Saturday, February 10, to make sure Leeds residents and those away from home can celebrate in style. 

Benny said: “At our restaurant, we understand the importance of traditional dishes in reconnecting with one's roots and finding comfort away from home. That's why we take pride in crafting authentic recipes that bring a taste of home to those celebrating Chinese New Year with us.”

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The restaurant has made a signature cocktail called ‘Eyes of the Dragon’, in honour of the new year. Customers can also indulge in a delectable treat with the limited-edition dessert, ‘Dragon Treasure’.

Dragon Treasure dessert and our Eyes of the Dragon cocktail at Blue Pavilion for Chinese New Year. Photo: Blue PavilionDragon Treasure dessert and our Eyes of the Dragon cocktail at Blue Pavilion for Chinese New Year. Photo: Blue Pavilion
Dragon Treasure dessert and our Eyes of the Dragon cocktail at Blue Pavilion for Chinese New Year. Photo: Blue Pavilion | Blue Pavilion

Blue Pavilion is also excited to announce its Love Week extravaganza which will be running from February 12 to February 18. Guests will be able to enjoy its special set menu with love-themed cocktails and desserts while they are serenaded by a live singer. 

Find out more about Chinese New Year at Blue Pavilion via the website.

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