Flying Fish has taken quite a surprising turn.
Liu Xiaomeng, founder of a chain of restaurants called Fortune Garden based in the northeastern metropolis of Tianjin, China, has bought the South Lake Union seafood house which was launched by Christine Keff in Belltown back in 1986.
The new chef at Flying Fish is a 30-year-old Franklin High grad named Princess Franada who did her culinary training at Renton Voc-Tech. A ten-year veteran at the Fish, she has also worked at Palace Kitchen and BOKA.
Liu's restaurant empire is extensive. He began with one restaurant in 1992, now has 15 stores in 8 cities, with a total of 3,200 employees. A year ago, he moved to Seattle with his wife, Sophie, "to retire," he says. He toyed with the idea of opening a steak house here (beef is hard to come by in China) but decided instead to concentrate of seafood. He started spending a lot of time eating at the Fish and became good friends with Keff.
Meanhwile, off Highway 202 in Redmond, Liu found an old bamboo farm on which he built a seven-bedroom house with what he calls a "development kitchen." He intends to make it a training base for his Chinese chefs so they can learn more about the dining habits of North Americans. Eventually, he plans to expand Flying Fish into Bellevue and Kirkland, as well as British Columbia and California.
As for Keff, she says, "I'm happy to just be a chef again and not have to worry about running a restaurant." She'll remain on hand as a consultant for six months or so, working on changes in the Chinese custom of "family dining" to the American preference for individually plated dinners.
· Flying Fish [Official Site]