growing up, my family’s seasoning tray consisted of three things – pepper, sugar, and salt. like in most other chinese (or asian) pantry, these three elements formed the basis of each dish that came out of the kitchen. there was a constant struggle to produce an equality of the sweet and the savory, as was evident from our substantial weekend breakfasts that included a spread as vast as sweetened pork floss to bean curd that had been fermented in hay. though I grew up with this concept being very prevalent in the meal process, the thought of adding wine such as shao hsing wine or mirin, which possesses a high sugar content, into a braising sauce for sliced meat may seem unusual to others. however, in actuality, every cuisine strives for a balance of these same components, just to varying degrees. european chefs sweeten their stocks by pre-roasting vegetables to point of caramelized sweetness; when making sushi, one season rice with a pinch of sugar to compliment the flavor of fish; and bittersweet chocolate tends to add the finishing hint of flavor to a spicy mexican mole. this juggling act has become my steadfast mission as chef. one of my most enjoyable combinations comes from the marriage of meat and fruit, which instantly should bring to mind chicken with apricots or lamb with a dried cherries. however, I have become addicted to taking this concept a step further with creations like my bacon and chocolate stuffed churros which i’m teaching at upcoming class at the institute of culinary education. as with any union in life, love is blind, and sometimes the most unlikely duo of ingredients just may form the perfect pair.