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MOzen Bistro

Shawn Armstrong (Unusual Items in MOzen's Kitchen)

    MOzen Bistro
Executive Chef, Mandarin Oriental Shawn Armstrong Former Executive Sous Chef, MOzen Bistro

TravelsinTaste.com recently spoke with Executive Chef Shawn Armstrong of MOzen Bistro at the Mandarin Oriental Las Vegas. An Asian expert who was trained in classical French culinary arts from The School of Culinary Arts in Houston, Armstrong has held senior positions in the finest restaurants across the world, including in the United States, Hong Kong, Maldives and Singapore, and was tasked in his previous position as executive sous chef of MOzen with establishing the restaurant as Las Vegas' premier authentic taste-of-Asia restaurant. Because he's succeeded in our estimation, we decided to ask Chef Armstrong about the most unusual ingredients in his kitchen, as well as how he spends his free time when he's not procuring or preparing them.

TravelsinTaste.com: Because you prepare so many different types of Asian cuisine in your kitchen, you must have some pretty colorful ingredients on hand. What's your most unusual?

Armstrong: I think it's probably the diversity of our kitchen that is a little unusual because of what we're trying to do. We have Indians, Chinese, Japanese and Thais in our kitchen, so there's diversity and an eclectic mix in the chefs themselves. We have a Korean chef in the kitchen, as well. I've worked in various parts of the world and this is probably the most diverse kitchen that I've ever worked in. I think that is something very unusual to say when you work and live in the United States. So, I think that's probably the most unusual aspect about it: the fact that we're able to feed off of all those different cultures and those cuisines in the kitchen. I think this is one thing that makes us strong.

Also, I don't know how unusual it is, but for the States I think it is: We have Tandoor ovens in the kitchen. Tandoor is a method used in India, predominantly in the northern states of India. It's an oven that's built out of clay, and the heating source is on the bottom, so you get a lot of direct heat coming directly above it. In India, they skewer vegetables or proteins on these big long skewers and they put them down in the oven and roast it. Of course, we make a lot of Indian bread: naan bread or chapattis. It's unlevened bread dough and it's stuck to the inside of the oven, which is pretty interesting, as well. The ones we use are gas; these are a little bit more modern take on it. Actually, it took our Indian chefs a little while to acclimate to because it is a little bit different; they are a little bit shorter and a little bit wider, but they are made by the great company Woodstone, which made our pizza ovens. They are made out of the United States. They do a brilliant job at it. The Americans have a good or bad habit of taking something that's been done for ages and making it better eventually. I think they are in the process of doing that with these Tandoor ovens.

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