A 25-year-old cook with more than two and a half years under Derek Dammann at Maison Publique will board a plane on Wednesday and face a long journey to Beijing.
Beichuan Yang has spent over a decade outside of China. He must return, however, because his work permit has expired.
Yang recently spoke about his predicament and love of Montreal.
What is the reason for your departure, exactly?
My old work permit expired. I was hoping to apply for a new one but the law changed this year. It’s very hard for cooks. It’s kind of my fault. I got it in Alberta. If I had stayed in Alberta I could have applied for permanent residency. But Quebec has different laws. They also changed the law for cooks at the federal level.
How do you feel?
Very sad. I left China when I was 14.
How did you end up in Canada?
I first went to Australia with my dad. After two years I went to Toronto with my mom. I spent two years in Toronto and then I went to college in Alberta with my dad. I lived in Calgary for four years, went to culinary school and worked for one and a half years in the city.
I really wanted to come to Montreal. The Joe Beef book had just come out and made a big impression on me. I gave my notice in Calgary and came here. The food scene in Montreal is the best in Canada. Not for Chinese or Korean food maybe but overall. And the people here in the industry are closely tied together. That’s what makes it hard to say goodbye. I’ve made so many friends.
Where did you work in Montreal?
I worked with Marc-Olivier Frappier, Dave McMillan and Fred Morin at Liverpool House for six months. Marc-Olivier gave me a job when I was doing my stage in Toronto. I staged at DNA with Derek and I wanted to join him when he opened his new restaurant.
I thought they’d hate me at Joe Beef when I left. But they didn’t. They were so supportive. I joined Maison Publique the second week it opened. At the time I felt like I still wanted to learn even more so I also worked part-time at Park with Antonio Park and Takeshi Horinoue for five months. I learned so much from them. I was so exhausted–I had no days off. I wanted to work at Park but my body couldn’t do it anymore. It was 80 hours a week. Derek was totally ok with it. In the end I had to make a choice and I stayed at Maison Publique. Park was so amazing and understanding. They’re all great teachers.
Antonio still comes and teaches me stuff, even though he knew I was leaving. I feel like I’m the luckiest cook in the world. I’ve had such amazing teachers in Montreal.
What will you do when you get to China?
I have to spend time with my family. It’s been 11 years since I was there. I’ve never spent much time with them. My grandmother is in Beijing. I’ll take her to see my aunt in Sichuan.
Will you be able to return to Montreal?
Right now it’s not looking very good. It will be a long time before I can even hope to apply for permanent residency.