Updated: Jun 28
From cannot even cook rice to trying to reproduce some of the tastiest foods from memory by trial and error, I was forced into the culinary industry though not by choice. I entered the industry in 1971 through self-taught learning process and enjoyed the reputation as the best fish and chip shop in the country in 1973. Later, I advanced into the restaurant business and won Hotel and Restaurant Academy’s Outstanding seafood restaurant in year 2000. I got stuck in it ever since.
"Cooking with passion and heart and take pride in what you do. Never be a copycat. "
How did you get into the industry?
I was more or less forced into the industry. I was born in a very wealthy family and used to having the best foods and trappings in life. When I was studying in England, I taught myself how to cook and try to reproduce the taste of food I was used to, from memory to satisfy my own taste bud. While I was reading civil engineering in London University my world suddenly collapsed. No more funds to carry on and I had to drop out and owed the bank a lot of money. Somehow I managed to persuade my bank manager to lend me more money to buy a tiny fish and chip shop by simply asking him a question. If by using the best ingredients, selling at best prices, give best and friendly services and hard work, can it FAIL? HE GAVE ME THE MONEY and I repaid all in 18 months instead of 120 months. I was stuck in ever since.
Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you started cooking?
I was hoping to be one of the best civil engineer in the country.
Is there one food that you're secretly obsessed with having at home?
Cooking kobe beef sukiyaki my style.
Is there a childhood comfort food that you think about?
All the best food and fruits from around the world most of which I cannot afford now.
Who are the Chefs that inspire you and have they influenced your cooking style?
Rick Stein and MARCO PIERRE WHITE they both believed in best quality ingredients and simplicity. Let the food speak for itself. .
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Self-taught free style recipes are only ideas and guide lines. I create my own taste. Most important to me is……. Are the ingredients I use good quality and in harmony and do they compliment each other? It is a forever learning process.
Do you have a "signature dish" or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
I don't have any signature dishes or may be all of them….. My cup of tea may be someone else’s poison. If one loves a dish then it becomes one's signature dish. Different people have different taste buds anyway. This is my interpretation.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants?
I was summoned in my London seafood restaurant by Lord Director General of the BBC wanting to see me. He has permanent reserved seats in most top London restaurants and I was expecting some sort of complaint from him but I was shocked to hear him praising how good the lobster was. No fuss, no frill, simple and so tasty and he loved it……. He brought me so many London celebrities to dine in my restaurant….. May be that's how I won a small award for the restaurant.
You spent time working overseas, notably in the UK: how did those experiences of other food cultures shape your food?
Cooking with passion and heart and take pride in what you do. Never be a copycat. Try to have your own flair and never serve food you won't eat yourself!! Good tasting and honest food is ultra-important to me…..I firmly believe in old classics as they stood the test of time. Trendy foods come and go like the wind. My motto is always try my best.
How long did it take to develop your own style of cooking, and what advice would you offer to young chefs looking to develop theirs?
It took me nearly 50 years and still learning and trying to improve. I still have not produced what I considered a perfect dish yet. Maybe one day before I die. My advice to new comers is don't come into the industry unless you have the heart, passion and stamina, willingness to learn, be humble, and take criticism. Don't copy recipes blindly. Be creative.
Tell us about one life-changing meal…
I was hunting in the mountains and lost my way. No food for 2 days and found a mountain dwelling family who offered me their lunch. It was boiled rice and sweet potatoes, a plate of plain bean curd pan sautéed with salt and it was the best meal I ever tasted….. It taught me a lesson, when one is hungry all food are delicious, when one is a fluent tend to pick and choose make a fuss on food. Of course this is only my personal opinion.