Bina Yu and Kim Melvin are well-known culinary talents in Shanghai. The former chef of CHI-Q and head pastry chef of Commune Social are behind a new French-Asian communal dining concept called Together. We sat down with them to talk about their new venture.
Bina, what have you been up to since CHIQ’s
closing a year ago, and how did you get
involved in Together?
BY: So, I had been working at Mercato up until October, and the plan was to send me to the new Guangzhou outlet. But since I was trained in a French restaurant, and my passion isn’t in Italian food, it didn’t happen. I knew Kim was looking for a chef and Lyndon [of Neri&Hu] called and asked me to join. I said no at first, because I have this bond with Jean-Georges. After a few months of thinking about it, I thought it might be time to move on. I also had a long break in between. I went to Mexico, New York and Cambodia, where I researched ingredients and the food scenes around the world.
What about Kim?
BY: Kim’s been working on this project for over six months. She plays the role of operations manager for the opening, then she’ll keep on doing desserts at both Commune Social and Together.
KM: Bina and her team will be running the place mostly by themselves. I’m also going to help, but Bina’s the main girl.
"A French-Asian concept makes the most sense"
How connected is the project to Commune
KM: Well, It’s part of the same company. With the exception of Jason Atherton, the rest of the owners are the same: The Unlisted Collection from Singapore plus Neri&Hu, who are also the designers. We’ve got a cool project because we’ve got the best of everything.
Can you tell us about the menu at
BY: In the beginning, I really wanted to do a healthy food concept, but nobody really agreed to it. After all the tasting nights, it became clear to all of us that a French-Asian concept makes the most sense because of my background: I’m from Korea, I live in China, I’ve worked under a French chef for years, and I love Japanese food.
KM: I like the octopus dish, which is really simple. The main courses are good for sharing; it’s like when you are at home at the table.
BY: That fits with our concept and the name ‘Together.’ I’m also excited about the side dishes. We contacted organic farms and other chefs to source nice ingredients for at least 12 sides.
What challenges have you encountered?
KM: Delay, delay, delay.
BY: [We worked out of] Commune Social for a while. That has been great, but the kitchen is small and they’re always busy with service, so I try work around their schedule for menu design and testing whenever I can. But due to the space, I couldn’t order all the ingredients that I wanted, so I just used whatever they have [to create the first menu]. I will develop more once we have our own kitchen.
See listing for Together here.