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GETTING TO KNOW OUR LOCAL CHEFS - Chef YC Chong









My journey into the culinary world was an accidental one. Even before gaining the ability and confidence to cook, I founded Above Gastrobar in 2018 as a wine bar with a small kitchen to churn out some light bites. As time went by, I was sucked into the rabbit hole of cooking and Above evolved alongside me and turned into a full-fledged restaurant. It took me a few years to build a good team, which then allowed me to take a 3-month break in early 2023 to work in Restaurant Frantzén, a 3-Michelin star restaurant in Stockholm, Sweden.


What inspires your culinary creations?


I love the idea of taking something familiar, often simpler dishes and then breaking them down and refining them, substituting in ingredients from different cultures to challenge the preconceived idea of that dish. My creations very much thrive on the sheer diversity of global cuisine.




 

What are the 3 things you can’t live without in the kitchen?


An incredibly sharp knife, a microplane, various tweezers



 

YOUR FAVOURITE FOOD IN IPOH?


Hands down the gai see hor fun from Moon De Moon.



 

Your favourite ingredient to cook with and why?


It is almost impossible to name just one but if I am forced to it would be lobster for the moment.




 

Has there ever been an ingredient that you weren't able to master and have given up on, like blood or lamb brains?


Thankfully I have not come across any ingredient that has inspired that level of frustration.



 

What was the best meal you have ever had? And Where?


Tough one. I have had the privilege of dining in many great restaurants. If it comes down to the one which blew me away and inspired me the most it would be Gaggan circa 2019 in Bangkok.



 

Who are the Chefs that inspire you and have influenced your cooking style?


As a YouTube trained chef, I watched many documentaries and cooking shows from the best chefs in the world. Just to name a few who have deeply influenced me - Rene Redzepi, Gaggan Anand, Massimo Bottura, Björn Frantzén, Lennox Hastie.



 

How do you feel about molecular gastronomy and how it's changed food in recent years?


Molecular gastronomy opens up possibilities to change basic ingredients into forms which can match the greatness of our imagination. That being said, I feel that many chefs feel like they are compelled to do it just because it is cool, and their cooking often gets lost in all the fluff. There must be a strong reason behind applying molecular gastronomy techniques to a dish for it to be genuine.



 

Is there a secret for a successful restaurant?


Success as a restaurant is fairly subjective. Some restaurateurs are looking strictly at financial returns, others are chasing prestige. Either way, the key to keeping a restaurant running at its best is the staff. Every restaurateur should treat their staff well, by recognising their needs and strengths, as well as giving space for them to express themselves through their craft. After all, happy staff equals happy customers..



 

Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?


The most important advice I could give is simple - have fun. The life of a chef is difficult, but what continues to push me forward is that I find joy in every little thing that I do in the kitchen. Without that, I would have never been motivated to keep innovating and challenging myself.



 

You've lived in several countries. Please tell us how that’s influenced you as a person and a chef.


Living in a different country not only gives you a different range of cuisines to explore, it also gives perspective. The world is not just a 2-dimensional view from your own eyes but there is an endless multitude of views from people with different cultural backgrounds. When you can see the world from multiple angles, your creativity grows accordingly.



 

What was your biggest triumph as a young chef, and is there anything you would consider your biggest failure?


Young is debatable. However in all seriousness, my biggest triumph would be Above Gastrobar, which is a long journey in itself in which I saw myself and the people around me grow. At the same time, it was also my biggest failure, in the sense that we were very close to giving up many times, especially with the pandemic


 

Lastly, you're hosting a dinner party for six close friends or family - what will you serve?


A seven course meal which takes at least two days to prep, and as I realise I bit off more than I could chew I start scrambling around to pull everyone I can find into the kitchen to help me. The menu will likely feature raw fish and highly charred meat.




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