Lu Ban’s Dave Critchley becomes first international apprentice to Chinese masterchef

One of the highest honours in the catering world has been bestowed on Liverpool chef Dave Critchley after he was appointed the first ever international Master Chef apprentice in Chinese culinary arts.

Critchley, executive head chef at Lu Ban Bar and Restaurant in Liverpool, underwent the symbolic ritual of sharing tea with his mentor Mr Zhengxi Wu, a national level Master Chef of China, via a video-link as part of his induction. He is now also the proud owner of a new official chef's hat.

I will follow his teachings to learning Chinese culinary arts and be working to the highest standards

Mr. Zhengxi Wu is a senior Chinese culinary Master Chef of China, senior assessor for the Tianjin Municipal Vocational and Technical Assessment centre and a member of the professional committee of the Tianjin Cuisine Association.

Mr. Wu has been working in the culinary education sector for nearly 40 years and has taught more than 10,000 students. He also mentored students to win national prizes in culinary skills competitions.

2020 07 28 Master Chef Dave Critchley
Paul Kallee-Grover, chair of the Liverpool China Partnership, Gary Millar, deputy mayor of Liverpool and Lu Ban executive head chef Dave Critchley

The ceremony was originally scheduled to be held in China in February, but had to be postponed because of...well you know what. The reopening of Lu Ban this month enabled the ceremony to finally happen, where the 36-year-old was given the honour of being Mr Wu's very last apprentice.

Critchley will now follow a defined path, overseen by Mr Wu, in enhancing his skills in Chinese culinary arts to reach Master Chef status from the famed Tianjin School of Cuisine.

"I admire teacher Zhengxi Wu's outstanding achievements in the Chinese culinary arts field and grateful to be accepted as his student," said Critchley.

“I will follow his teachings to learning Chinese culinary arts and be working to the highest standards to introduce Chinese food culture and to further develop Chinese culinary arts in the UK and further afield."

2019 11 04 Lu Ban Cherry Blossom Pudding
Lu Ban's very special cherry blossom dessert

David began working in a kitchen at age 15 at The Halfway House in 1998 while still studying at high school and continued working there until finishing college and University.

At 23 David took his first head chef job at 52 Lark Lane bistro. A year later, he became a Junior sous chef at the then prestigious Alma de Cuba and over the next seven years worked his way up to Head Chef and eventually Operations Chef to oversee five sites.

David's next move was to the London Carriage Works at Hope Street Hotel, where he took over from chef Paul Askew, maintaining 2 AA rosettes for four years amongst various other accolades. In 2017, David moved to Manchester and became operations chef for Australasia in Spinningfields, part of the Living ventures group. In 2019, David was approached to become the executive head chef of Lu Ban Bar and Restaurant.

2019 11 04 Lu Ban Chefs Table
Lu Ban has a Chefs Table where guests can watch David and the team prepare the Chinese delights while they dine

The Zoom ceremony was attended by special guests including Gary Millar, deputy mayor of Liverpool; Paul Kallee-Grover, chair of the Liverpool China Partnership; James Holden of the Royal Academy of Culinary Arts; and Paul Askew, Chef Patron of The Art School in Liverpool.

Dr Xiaoli Dutton, principal of the International Academy of Chinese Culinary Arts (IACCA) and Mr Zaiqian Zhang, deputy principal of Tianjin Economics and Trade School, oversaw the event, which also included a speech from deputy mayor Millar, who highlighted the importance of the partnership between Liverpool and Tianjin and the opportunities this brings to the city.

The partnership will drive a cultural exchange between the two countries with the goal to develop the learning of authentic Chinese food culture and Chinese culinary arts in the UK and further afield.

Dr Dutton said: "Tianjin is deemed to be the birthplace of Western cuisine in China. It owns a few nationally well-known western food brands such as Astor Hotel and Kiessling Restaurant. To further integrate the resources of the city's western food industry to enable its prosperity, the Professional Committee on Western Cuisine of the Tianjin Cuisine Association has been formed and help its first meeting this month."

Lu Ban Restaurant, Cains Brewery Village, Stanhope Street, Liverpool, L8 5XJ

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