INDIO, Calif. – Fantasy Springs Resort Casino recently welcomed its newest chef de cuisine, Dayu Zhang. Originally from Jilin, China, Zhang was recently appointed head chef of the resort’s newest restaurant, Joy.
Opened at the end of September, Joy features menu items brought directly from Zhang’s native China, as well as from Vietnam, Korea, Thailand and other Asian locales. Joy opened the last week of September 2010 and will have a grand opening event featuring dragon dancers and a ribbon cutting ceremony Nov. 9.
Zhang comes to Joy and Fantasy Springs most recently from a major cruise line based out of Florida. Working as a specialty Asian chef, he said he “paid his dues” there so he could cook and prepare many different varieties of dishes for guests, and to help him better learn English. Prior to his time on cruise ships serving tourists from every walk of life, Zhang was the executive chef of the Jin Gingxuan Restaurant in Jilin, China.
“It was primarily a vegetarian restaurant where I developed 200 ways to cook tofu and bean curd.” Several of his vegetarian creations have been adapted for the menu at Joy.
Before exploring the versatility of vegetarian dishes, Zhang utilized his worldly cooking skills making dishes for heads of state and celebrities at the Hotel Palace Restaurant in Khartoum, Sudan. The hotel housed a five-star Chinese restaurant and Zhang poured his passion into the job as executive chef. He has also lent his culinary abilities to several other restaurants across China, including a Korean restaurant located in his hometown. “I worked there instead of at a traditional Chinese restaurant because I really wanted to learn Korean-style cooking.”
With a degree from the Tourism & Cuisine Technical College in Jilin, China, he continues to garner knowledge about culinary techniques and styles. “My favorite styles to make, and to eat, are so different from one another. I love the distinctive and spicy flavors of Szechwan cooking. French food is also one of my favorites. It’s rich, yet at the same time, relatively simple. You just have to have patience to prepare some of the sauces,” he laughed.
Zhang described Joy as a restaurant that will make diners who are accustomed to traditional Asian dishes feel very comfortable, while at the same time, one that offers dishes familiar to Westerners. Guests can experience Zhang’s creations during lunch and dinner seven days a week at Joy inside Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. It is located just inside of the casino valet entrance.