Chef Boon started his career at the SHANGRI-LA Hotel Singapore in 2005 where the passion for Italian cuisine motivated him to refine his skills and techniques over more than 10 years. As he married and became the father of a beautiful little daughter, he and his wife decided it was time to return to their home town Ipoh. He started at The Banjaran in 2016 as Head Chef. .
“Trust your superiors and your team” have been the key’s elements to the success of the restaurant which just recently was shortlisted by Tatler Magazine in the category Malaysia Hotel Best Restaurant 2018.
What made you decide to become a chef?
Many chefs may say that they choose this industry because they like food and cooking. But, unfortunately, I did not. I didn't know the chef industry at the beginning. I used to have a part-time job in the kitchen during my studies. Meanwhile, I thought at the very least, if I can cook, I can have my own simple street food stall that way my family won't be hungry.
I have been studying art since I was in school. Maybe this is also a trend.
What inspires your culinary creations?
Inspiration is curious – no matter what your profession is, ideas and thoughts can come from everywhere, I do a lot of research to see what is out there. I also look at pictures of food, that’s a great inspiration. Both Instagram and Pinterest are ideal to explore and see what is possible. “I will then create my now version of what I see”
Name 3 things you can’t live without in the kitchen
- respect your team and don't be afraid of failure
- keep a calm mind and organise everything when you put your chef's jacket on.
- family support
What personal quirks does your team often tease you about?
I always believe that working in a place full of interest is the best way to learn. We respect each other very much but professionally we're not joking around when the service time is going on. My emotional changes may make it difficult for them to adapt.
Who are the Chefs that inspire you and have they influenced your cooking style?
I am very fortunate that when I was working at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, I could keep up with many older chefs from all over the world, but what really affected me was my direct supervisor named “Edmund Cheah” when I join Shangri-la Hotel Singapore. A Chinese guy who original from Penang,his seriousness of dealing with things in the kitchen and his high EQ of providing a happy working environment for the team is a skill that i replicate because it brings my team success.
Do you have a "signature dish" or favourite dish you enjoy cooking?
It’s funny to say, my favourite food to cook is actually instant noodles. I am always happy to see my wife and daughter enjoying this simple dish that I sometimes go home and cook for them.
Do you have a favourite ingredient?
“Scallion” .A special ingredient that you can find in Asian cuisine and also Western cuisine.
One rule you learned in cooking school that every home cook should know:
The importance of maintaining personal hygiene and food safety.
What is your most interesting or fun experience from your time in restaurants/hotels?
I used to tease a chef in front of guests. I told him” Your boyfriend is waiting for you to call him back now”. The key point is the chef is a guy and he is talking with a beautiful female guest. That night, I become a hero in the kitchen and with the service team. I’m not a person who discrimination against gays and lesbians. I respect all my friends. Just, the situation at the moment this was the best tease for the chef.
Any advice you would give to someone wanting to become a chef?
First, you need to know, this is a very difficult job. This is not a job that you watch on YouTube, where a handsome chef with a tattoo on his hand, with his most modern good looking haircut, is putting food on a plate. Unfortunately you usually only can see a fat and tired crazy man shouting in the kitchen and you always don’t understand what he is scolding others about.
And you also may not be able available for your friend or family when they need you. For example your might miss you child being born, your loved one's birthday, your friend's marriage or festivals that everyone is celebrating because you need to work.
But young man, please don’t give up if you choose it, the future is awesome and there are some really cool restaurants and great chef waiting for you. If you really want to get a good understanding of how the food industry has really come so far so fast. Look up the greats. Who taught Gordan Ramsey? Who taught Marco Pier White? Who is Auguste Escoffie? And you must also understand the diet of different countries. Method and tips of cooking, knowledge of choosing ingredients depend on the season. The more you know the stronger your base. The more you can really think outside the box the better! How do you do it? Read some good cook books and be hungry for knowledge.