Why did you become a chef?
Food has always been my passion and obsession since I was a kid. I love to eat and experience good food. My dad was a great chef and my mom is a great cook too. So growing up in a family of foodies, my passion and obsession of food grew into a craft. To me cooking is one of the best pleasures in life. It's a feast of all the senses - sights, scents, sounds and touches. You use it all to express and present the ingredients into something delightful to the palate. It then nourishes the body and feeds the soul:-). Being a chef, I'm able to express it in my cuisine. It's an artistry, dedication and pursuit of perfection all the time. I love to share that with my diners at my restaurants or at home, with my family and friends.
There's no hiding that you're the son of Celebrity Chef Wan. Tell about traveling with your father. You must have learned a lot from him, but how do you create a separate identity that is distinctly yours?
I started my culinary training early in my childhood. I remember helping my dad at the studio kitchen when I was about 7 - prepping ingredients for his TV show and whenever I had school holidays I would follow him traveling all over the world promoting Malaysian cuisine. This experience exposed me to the Food and Beverage industry at an early age, broadened my horizons and sparked my interest in cooking professionally. I knew exactly what I wanted to do when I grew up - become a chef. I'll love cooking till the day I die. My father is very strict in the kitchen and a perfectionist. I got screamed at and scolded until I got it right. I love him for that. He taught me the art of perfection and precision in my work. I am continuing my dad's passion and vision in promoting Malaysia to the world. The only difference is the way I do it, is more towards a restaurateur way. By creating and designing restaurants and food outlets with different concepts and approaches, each with its unique trait and cuisine that it focuses on. This allows me to present my culinary creations to consumers and push my creativity to the boundaries. My cuisine is a bit different than my dad's. I've integrated modern techniques, food technology and embraced avant-garde movements into my cuisine while retaining the essence and authenticity of the original. It's an evolution constantly improving. I love breaking the rules. But before that, it's important to have strong roots. A tree grows from the root. A tree will bear branches and leaves and then fruit. It's from fruit you can make many things. Use your imagination and the sky is the limit. No greatness can be achieved without a strong solid foundation.
You lead a couple of restaurants around KL. Tell us about them.
I've created and run several restaurant and dining concepts in Malaysia - Titanium International Bistro, Marcos Italian Restaurant, Thai King Crab Seafood Restaurant, Meatworks Steakhouse, 'On the Table' World Cuisine and, the latest is Flavours. We're only about four months old and we've started already to cater for inflight dining for Private Chartered Jets. The Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak is one of my regular patrons. I've cooked for the Deputy Prime Minister and HRH Sultan of Johor. Well, each one of these brands have their own unique concept and a particular cuisine that I showcase. I also do chef consultancy and menu engineering for various food companies and corporate entities. This is the 3rd year I'm appointed as Campbells' Product Ambassador and endorse their food brands such as Campbells, Kimball and Prego.
What are five ingredients that you must always have in your kitchen?
When you're not cooking professionally what do you like to eat?
I like Thai style Beef Ribs Soup and Chili Crab eaten with Steamed Bun when I eat out. At home, my favorite comfort food is Nasi Goreng, and boy, I make a killer one using Sambal Belacan that I pound using the good old mortar and pestle. I love simple things done with love.
You've done a lot of traveling. What do you see as the areas of strength of the Malaysian food industry and what do you see as areas for potential growth?
Malaysia has so much potential that is still left untapped in the food industry. First of all we have a diverse culture living in Malaysia. It's natural that we inspire one another when it comes to food. The local produce that we have from land and sea is fantastic and inexpensive. Even imported food from all over the world can easily be obtained although it's a bit expensive. Our local food scene is still growing with exciting new restaurants coming up everyday. It's a healthy competition. I look towards Australia. I really love the food industry down there. As the younger generation of chefs, I feel that it is my duty to inspire the young generation to take this challenge and set the standards high. After all I dream big. My ultimate dream is to build my 'Harimau Malaya.' If Spain has 'El Bulli', Denmark has 'Noma' and England has 'Fat Duck,' Malaysia should have our 'Harimau Malaya' - Avant Garde Malaysian Cuisine that showcases the past, present and future cooking philosophy of Malaysia.
What do you foresee in your near future? What are your long term professional goals?
I see myself continuing my lifelong passion on a grander scale. I'm an innovator. Creativity and 'naughtiness' playing with food is my forte. I love every second of cooking and I dare to be where other people fear to be. There are no boundaries in my cuisine and my pursuit to perfection. I wish to bring Malaysian cuisine and our food culture to new heights and share it with the world through my restaurants, F and B concepts, my TV shows and my cookbooks. My father Chef Wan and Gordon Ramsay are my heroes and I aspire to be like them.
Live to cook,