This year our 2015 Reader Restaurant Awards have four personality-based categories: Best Chef, Best Manager, Restaurant Personality of the Year, and Food Entrepreneur of the Year. During the voting period that runs through March 8, we’re profiling a few of this year’s crop of nominees.

This time around we present Max Levy, owner and chef at Okra and a nominee in the Best Chef category.

TBJ: Tell us how about how you got to where you are today.
Where exactly am I? I still haven’t figured that out yet. Wherever that may be, its been because of the support of loyal customers and an incredibly hard-working and passionate team. The support and love that comes from my friends and family has kept me in the game, year in-year out.

TBJ: What dishes are you most proud of?
There are always dishes that you make for your customers, and some that you make just for yourself. I always get the most joy from dishes that push people’s boundaries and change their minds about certain ingredients. Our roasted fish head, conceived originally at Bei and carried over at Okra, is definitely up there. The smoked mala sausage that we make for Traitor Zhou’s definitely changes people’s opinions when it comes to Chinese sausages as well.

TBJ: Tell us about your biggest kitchen disaster.
My biggest kitchen disaster was when I had a landlord suddenly decide to “change” his electricity without informing me. We ended up having to hire a generator truck to power the 115sqm of refrigerators to avoid losing RMB 400,000 worth of sausages. Not fun.

TBJ: How do you feel that Beijing rates on the scale of international dining destinations?
Beijing has definitely, dramatically improved as a dining city over the years, including the quality of food and service, with those not willing to change being pushed out. That being said, we are still behind our sister to the south in terms of dining out being exciting and fun. The traffic has a lot to do with it. Imagine asking your friends to hit two to four places in one night for just a drink and a bite at each, as opposed to going to one place for a few hours before hitting a bar, something that is quite the norm in places like New York, Hong Kong, and even Shanghai. Also there is still a lack of good drinking places that serve comparable food at night, instead of the same old buffalo wings or noodles.

TBJ: Tell us about one of your favorite places to eat in Beijing, aside from your own.
A lot of places come and go. Some get better, and some get worse. One of my favorites that constantly improves, and is constantly changing the game, is Migas. There is always a lot of fun things going on there.

Click here to read previous editions of A Few Words With wherein we profile some of the top players in Beijing's food scene during the voting period for the 2015 Reader Restaurant Awards, which runs through March 8.

Photo: Okra

Visit the original source and full text: the Beijinger Blog