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Topping the Brill

Updated: 2024-01-16 06:27 ( China Daily )
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Adrien Brill, a 33-year-old from Arizona, has been operating a small restaurant in Nanxi'nan village near Huangshan Mountain in Anhui province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

American pizza maker in Anhui province finds fortune favors the brave, Xu Fan reports.

Unless you have tried it, it is probably hard to imagine the taste of furry tofu pizza or a smelly mandarin fish pizza.

However, Adrien Brill, a 33-year-old American, has managed to successfully merge the distinctive tastes of East China's Anhui province with the Italian classic, making his small restaurant nestled in Nanxi'nan — a tranquil and picturesque village near the famous Huangshan Mountain — a popular eatery with both locals and tourists.

His unlikely culinary adventure is told in the second season of Crazy Rich Fanatic, a documentary series produced by Beijing-based Boss Zhipin Pictures. Both the first and second seasons are now available on the Tencent Video streaming site.

Brill, a native of Arizona, recalls that he and his brother were taken care of by a Chinese babysitter who had accompanied her husband, while he studied for his doctoral degree at the University of Arizona.

"She spoke to me in Chinese every day. At such a young age, I had more exposure to Chinese than any other foreign language. I have no memory of her because I was too young. When I was growing up, my parents often told me this story. They always joked that my first language was Chinese," he says.

At the age of 15, while Brill was a sophomore in high school, he got an opportunity to accompany his mother, a language teacher, on a project that invited American teachers to universities in Jiangsu province, sparking his interest in Chinese culture.

He makes pizzas with Chinese-flavored toppings and has immersed himself into local countryside life. [Photo provided to China Daily]

After returning to his hometown and pursuing a major in East Asian Studies at the University of Arizona, Brill decided to return to China and further his language skills at Sichuan University in Chengdu.

But what enticed him to leave Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, was his encounter with his future wife, Qiu Tong, a native of Anhui province, during the Strawberry Music Festival in 2014.

Brill, who previously worked as an English teacher at Huangshan University in Anhui, discovered his passion for cooking in 2021, and launched an account on Douyin, a popular video-sharing platform, to post short videos of his culinary explorations.

His popularity soared, amassing over 130,000 fans and earning around 686,000 likes. As a result, he was invited by local authorities to open Adrien's Little Canteen in Nanxi'nan village, a restaurant that combines the distinctive traits of Anhui's renowned dishes with Western cuisine. The initiative was part of a project to vitalize the countryside.

From kneading dough to building an oven and researching how to use the flavors and ingredients of local Chinese dishes as toppings on pizzas, Brill has gradually gained fame in this small village and has immersed himself in China's pastoral life.

Wang Xiaoyang, who directed the Crazy Rich Fanatic episode featuring Brill, says that, hopefully, his story and the other tales in the documentary series will inspire young viewers, showing them that even in the current challenging situation, they can discover new ways to launch a business in their own interesting ways.

The second season of Crazy Rich Fanatic consists of six stories, including that of a young woman who serves as a special guide, taking tourists on nighttime boat trips to admire the starry skies of Dali's West Lake in Yunnan province, and that of a veteran journalist who left the media industry to focus on growing different species of tomatoes.

Xin Ran, the producer of the documentary series, reveals that they conducted extensive research to select the six stories from over 400 candidates. During this process, they discovered that successful startup founders share a common trait — they have the ability to learn quickly and acquire the knowledge they need for their businesses primarily from the internet.

Currently, the second season of the documentary has a rating of 8.7 out of 10 on Tencent Video, suggesting that it resonates with many young aspirants yearning for career success.

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