Chongqing- Paul Tait comes from Noosa on the Queensland Sunshine Coast, about 100 kilometers north of Brisbane, which has an idyllic Australian beach town surrounded by national parks, with glorious warm climes lasting throughout the year.
In later life, he felt the desire to experience life in a Chinese city that was less mainstream so that he could feel what China is like, get to know the people, and experience a culture entirely different from Noosa. Since Paul first came to work in a restaurant named the Blue Olive, which led to a series of new ventures in the culinary world, Chongqing has undoubtedly lived up to expectations.
Following his initial year at the Blue Olive, Paul has done consultancy work, opened a home delivery food company, and taught at chef schools all over China and five-star hotels. Now, he also runs a western-style pub serving ex-pats and locals popular food and beverages amid a lively atmosphere.
However, the catering market for western-style restaurants has been a significant challenge in the previous few years, as the pandemic and reforms in the private education industry have significantly reduced the expatriate customer base.
In response, Paul remarked how one key to success has been to serve western food with a Sichuanese twist, such as the hotpot burger he designed as a consultant for the local restaurant chain Light's Burger.
"The hotpot burger has lotus root, coriander, sesame oil, sesame seeds, garlic mushrooms, a spicy beef patty, and a hotpot flavored mayonnaise. It has been pretty popular with the locals so far."
Before he arrived in Chongqing six years ago, Paul expected that city life would be dirty and chaotic, seeing how the population of China is around one and a half billion. However, the reality on the ground brought him a delightful surprise.
"Everywhere is just so clean. The streets are washed every day. The leaves are swept off the footpaths. Rubbish is collected regularly. However, I think the best thing about Chongqing is the people, who are so friendly and have looked after me very well."
In just a few short years, there have been many significant changes that Paul has witnessed, such as the new bridges and subway lines. Another direct experience has been the urban expansion rate, which he realized after scouting potential locations for a new cooking school.
"It was about five years ago that somebody brought me to Yubei (District), and I thought it was too far out of the main city hub. Four years later, Yubei has become the main hub," Paul said. "I should have listened to him. On the outskirts of Yubei, you can see all the new construction. It's phenomenal what they can do."
Currently, Paul is well settled in Chongqing and plans to remain, despite sometimes feeling nostalgic towards his home down under. "My plan is obviously to get this place going well, and there are options to open new pubs. I plan to stay in Chongqing, but also I would like to spend time back in Australia."
(Li Shichen and Chen Qian contributed to the report as trainees)
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