Gourmet Traveller

Family ties

I have a confession. Since long before it was suggested that I write about Gilbert Lau, I have secretly admired, no, hero-worshipped him. Lau is considered by many as the father of Chinese food in Australia, and I’ve been in awe of his unerring knowledge of Chinese, and in particular Cantonese, food, since the early days at his Flower Drum restaurant. Lau was born in Taishan, a county in Guangdong, a province famous for producing some of China’s best chefs, and his career began in the kitchen of the now defunct Wing Sun restaurant on Melbourne’s Little Bourke Street.

From there, he went on to open a restaurant called the Empress of China before selling his share to open Flower Drum in 1975, the trailblazing Cantonese restaurant in Melbourne’s Chinatown. Lau’s vision is simple: to cook great Cantonese food with the best and the freshest ingredients using traditional Chinese cooking methods for it to shine. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed many beautiful dishes at Flower Drum including the signature salt and pepper whiting.

In 2003, Lau decided to retire and he sold his restaurant to a few of his loyal employees. But when his sons, Jason and Michael, together with their long-time chef Au Yeung Tang, opened

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