Saturday, 20 April 2013

Chef Pearl Woo, Qba Latin Grill and Bar, The Westin, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Qba Latin Grill and Bar, Westin Hotel, Kuala Lumpur
Chef Pearl Woo

The Yum List meet passionate Chef Pearl of Qba Latin Bar and Grill and finds inspiration in her story.

How did you get into the industry?

I was working in sales and marketing back in my hometown, Kuching (Borneo, Land of The Head Hunters) for 10 years. In 2002, this highly paid and highly stressed career of mine caused me to have serious stress ulcer. One of my pharmacists – who is also a close friend of mine advised me that, I’d have to make the biggest decision of my life, in order to better my health condition, in search of happiness and chasing my dreams… Her advice was to forget about the money and do something that I’m passionate about! After one month of deep thought, I packed my bags and flew over to Kuala Lumpur - the strange yet fascinating city of Kuala Lumpur. I enrolled myself in a local Hotel Management College, pursuing Professional Cooking Studies. I was then later sent for industrial internship with The Ritz Carlton, Kuala Lumpur under the supervision of Executive Chef Graham Oliver.

Where have you worked around the world?

I joined The Westin Kuala Lumpur as the pre- opening team on 21st July 2013 for The Living Room, The Westin KL’s all day dining restaurant. After nine months I was transferred to Qba Latin Bar and Grill by our then Executive Chef Roberto Conrad to elevate my culinary journey and experience. Since then I’ve had numerous fantastic culinary experiences with: Mexican Chef Alberto Pastor Lopez, The Westin Regina Cancun (May 2005 ); Executive Chef of Restaurant Sevilla Chef Michael Reidt – French- Brazillian Culinary promo December 2006; Chef Michelle Bernstein of Restaurant Michy’s, Miami (Nuevi Latino promo March 2007); Chef Mark Best, Execute Chef Owner for world renowned Marque Restaurant for Modern French Australian promo – May 2007; Chef Edgar Leal Owner of Cacao Restaurant for Contemporary Latin American Cuisine July 2008;  Master Cuban Chef Maricel Presilla, New Jersey, USA with Cuban Cuisine adventure Dec 2008 and; Venezuelan Chef Tamara Rodriguez for Venezuela Week in Malaysia July 2009.

As part of my passion for learning, I took part in Class 18 – Seafood Main Course – Open category for FHM 2007 Culinaire to which I received a Bronze Award.  By understanding my love of learning, my previous Director of Kitchens - Chef David King sent me for an Executive Certificate in Kitchen Management in Taylor’s College, School of Hospitality and Tourism in August 2010. Currently, I am also due to complete my Starwood Care Leadership University Turn 2. I always believe in continuous learning, in order to excel!

Share with us an interesting story from your F and B experience.

My Most Memorable Culinary Experiences are always with my Chefs. I always remember how my Master Cuban Chef Maricel Presilla inspired me to pay extra attention to details and precision when it comes to ingredients, methods & techniques of cooking. There was a time when our hotel was running out of extra virgin olive oil in the middle of our cooking, Chef Maricel just stopped cooking and  walked out of our kitchen saying, “I won’t do my cooking without extra virgin olive oil!!!!" Our Culinary Team was shocked & worried. Twenty minutes later, despite the heavy down pour we managed to grab a carton of extra virgin olive oil from the nearest supermarket for Chef Maricel to continue her cooking for our wine dinner. Until today I still remember her teaching, “Pearl, never trust anyone when cooking is concerned, but yourself! “

What's your favourite Malaysian food?

My favourite Malaysian food is Sarawak Laksa and Sarawak egg noodle (kolo met).

What's your personal favourite dish on the menu at Qba?

Qba signature steak tasting plates. The Shorthorn includes 120gm each of Master Kobe Oyster Blade with Mushroom Confit, CAAB Rib Eye with Salsa Roja and Kobe Cuisine Wagyu Eye Fillet with Roasted Sweet Onions and a Cabrales Blue Cheese Sauce.

What's one of the most memorable dishes you've ever made?

Being a Master Chef for Qba Latin Bar and Grill - MIGF 2012 was a memorable experience and challenging. With my team of four chefs, we had to prepare three types of canapés for 2000 guests during the MIGF Gala launch on October 2012 and Taste of MIGF in Sunway Convention Centre. We did not have enough kitchen utensils and equipment for us to do our mass production food preparation over the convention centre plus having to compete with more than 18 participating restaurants was a challenge we had to overcome. An advanced menu creation had to be designed in order to overcome all these challenges. With strong team work and support from my culinary team, we were awarded The Winner for Most Creative Food Presentation at the Gala Launch by Peoples’ Choice. (3 canapé: Cajun marinated scallop and prawn, romesco sauce; Grilled chicken St. Antonia roll: Coconut crème caramel). Our mission was to introduce our Taste of Qba Latin Bar and Grill to the Malaysian and food lovers.
During the MIGF 2012 Judges dining in Qba was an exciting challenge, as we had to showcase my food creations for this event. The feedback we received was great! We did a fantastic job in introducing Qba Latin Bar and Grill with Contemporary Latin American Cuisine to the public. 

What's something you'd like people to know about the style of food you prepare at Qba?

I would like people to know that Qba food is always prepared with the freshest and best quality ingredients, consistency, my “down to earth”  cooking techniques and skills, infused with tones of my passion as if I was serving it to my loved ones.

What's your ideal food and wine/ liquor pairing?

My ideal wine and food pairing would be Qba’s signature steak tasting plate, the Shorthorn, with red wine. Tempranillo, Reserva, Marques De Riscal, Spain, 2005 with Master Kobe Oyster Blade. Merlot Casillero Del Diablo, Concha Y Toro, Chile, 2010 with CAAB Rib Eye, and, Cabernet Shiraz, Bin 389, Penfolds, Australia, 1994, with the Kobe Cuisine Wagyu Eye Fillet.

Your perfect day off would be...

I enjoy sourcing for fresh and simple ingredients in the local market to cook pasta aglio e olio or some simple Chinese comfort food. This is because it reminds me of fond memories of my Dad back at home in Kuching who used to prepare tasty food for the family. 

What can guests look forward to at Qba for the rest of 2013?

Guests can look forward to a memorable dining experience with our Qba Latin Bar and Grill Culinary Team, at The Westin Kuala Lumpur. I welcome them to enjoy my exciting food creations and my expression of passion for food with a twist of Latin flare!


  1. Nice interview :) I'd only ever been to Qba once for their weekend buffet, was a LOT of pretty nice food there!

  2. Pearl a.k.a Kakak, she has passion, you're great chef :)