TAIPEI, Taiwan — “I want to surprise my guests and friends on a sensory level through my creative cuisine,” says Sicilian chef Andrea Bonaffini with a smile. But little do people know about the deep culinary knowledge behind this modest smile as Andrea has won the Italian dessert championship and worked for some of the most prestigious Michelin starred restaurants in the world.
Yellow Lemon, which was founded in 2014, marks the beginning of yet another peak in Andrea’s career. It is a restaurant in Taipei, nurtured and established by Andrea and a few friends introducing the unique kind of creative cuisine he always had in mind. Up to this day, Yellow Lemon has attracted numerous customers and loyal fans in search of an advanced cuisine and the unique tastes and sensory experiences that guests are exposed to. Let’s take a closer look and discover how Andrea Bonaffini captured the tastebuds and hearts of his customers in this part of the world.
Cooking is a life art
“I used to enjoy eating as well as watching my mother cook during my childhood,” says the Italian chef. “My interest in cooking had been a natural part of my life growing up. I was already working as a chef at three restaurants in Italy when I was only 16 years old“. When asked the motivation behind his cooking career, Andrea’s story brings back some childhood memories with some rough moments.
“I remember my first job in Turin, Italy. It was a terribly tough period. I was often caught up in a mess, but after many failures and accumulated experience, I got on track and did much better, step by step.”
Andrea’s inspiration in his cooking comes also from his mother’s art work. “My mother is very good at drawing. I believe that I have inherited the same genes. I like art and painting; my favourite artists are Jackson Pollock and Damien Hirst.”
I can say sometimes my cooking ideas were inspired by art, but also from some little things in my every day life. I created my own cooking style, it is contemporary cuisine.
And just taking a closer look around Yellow Lemon’s interiors, we can see that its decoration and design are inspired by contemporary art. As Andrea explains: “The interior design is my creation, filled with my favourite yellow colour. The sunlight projected through transparent windows, the open space and open kitchen are all designed by me. I wanted to create a bright and comfortable atmosphere, not just simply adopting a typical modern style. I wanted to express a concept of friendly service and become closer to my customers. It is a new-life attitude.”
Between luxury and uniqueness
“I don’t consider my cuisine luxury, but I believe that my cooking skills, my cuisine and my restaurants are a sort of advanced creation: special, unique and creative. Not to mention that we have already done many customised dishes and meals for more than a few special guests,” says Andrea, who believes that unique, customised cuisine as an essential and necessary component in the kind of service he offers.
“I value my cuisine depending on the material and cooking techniques involved, as well as the cooking time required for each dish. Needless to say, on top of these factors, taste is the most important factor because of its defining uniqueness to the dish and the implied creativity,” Andrea continues. “Many people would associate my cuisine to Molecular Gastronomy, but that was never part of my practice and following this trend was therefore, never my intention.”
Andrea explains that the most critical aspect of his cuisine is the use of natural ingredients. “I learned and developed unique cooking techniques for which every step is a secret.”
Mixing the ingredients is another secret worth its own chapter. Regrouping different tastes and visual effects are among the basics of my own way of combining raw materials.
Yellow-Art is the most famous creation among Andrea Bonnaffini’s cuisine, a combination of art and food while mixing the elements of natural ingredients. The kitchen desktop becomes a canvas and all the natural ingredients turn into painting pigments: mango, strawberry, pistachio, black sesame and vanilla sauce. The ice cream with a peanut like appearance is actually caramel flavoured. Another composition of raw material is made of lollipop mojito, while adding berry, chocolate powder, caramel hazelnut and fruit juice. Melaleuca pastry, sponge cake, macaroon, edible flowers, all finally sprinkled into large amounts of liquid nitrogen as a means to be frozen and transformed into chocolate-rocks. This plethora of visual effects and multi-level temperatures, ranging from cold to hot brings forward the ultimate, rich sensory surprise!
Taiwan is a country that embraces a variety of Asian elements and nationalities. People in Taiwan are open-minded and are encouraged to think freely. They are full of vigor and energy. This is fully acknowledged by Andrea: “I enjoy the kind of attitude people have in Taipei. People enjoy a pleasant tea-time or go out as a stress reliever.”
My restaurant is an ideal place to relax and my creative desserts are the best thing to alleviate the stress not only through your stomach, but also the heart. I like to chat with my guests. I treat all my guests as friends. My achievement of success is defined by the satisfied faces and smiles of my guests.
Andrea Bonnaffini seeks opportunities to collaborate with well-known artists. They work together to incorporate their art concepts into cuisine or alternatively, to inject cooking ideas into their artwork as well.
“Recently, I have cooperated with BenQ in presenting their new product, TreVolo. It is a new creation in which I cooked my cuisine based on inspirations from music. The emotions and sounds transformed and found their way into my cooking procedure. This special customised cuisine will be presented together with the music to the customers. They will be tasting the food and listening to music that inspired the cooking at the same time.“ The cooking story will be absorbed in an holistic atmosphere, enriched by multiple senses of hearing, smelling, tasting and visualising.
Simplicity is the way to happiness
“Each cuisine or dessert is my favourite creative work. Some ideas are drawn from my original creation, Yellow-ART, which becomes the basis of many beloved extensions I developed throughout the years.” This creative chef introduces one of his special cuisines, BK, inspired by the typical western breakfast and made as a breakfast. It includes bacon, chips, eggs, ice cream in egg flavour, caramelised French toast, ketchup of strawberry and tomato. What a combination!
Andrea Bonaffini is the kind of chef with a vast number of accumulated experiences constantly delivering delightful creative cuisine and dishes, and he ends our conversation with a positive note: “Simplicity is the conquest. When it is simple and pleasant, people grow to love and enjoy; it is true happiness.”