|Chef Nizar, Five27, Penang|
The Yum List spends a short while with Chef Nizar and soon discovers a man passionate about food, health and perfection.
What do you do and how did you got into the industry?
I am the Head chef and General Manager at FIVE27 in Penang. I got into the industry when I was 20 and living in New Zealand. I took a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant while I was studying and I loved the atmosphere in the kitchen, so I started helping out with whatever I could. One day the commis chef didn’t turn up so the Head chef asked me to step in. I must have done a good job because when the commis chef finally did turn up he was told that he was the new dishwasher! I haven’t left the kitchen since.
e with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
I had been in Sweden for 2 years and I was working in a restaurant there. One night a Swedish man of 73 came to the restaurant and I prepared Gravad Lax (lightly cured Salmon) for him. When he finished his meal he came to the kitchen and asked to see the chef of the “best Gravad Lax that I have ever eaten”. When he saw me he was very surprised as I was clearly not Swedish. “You must have been adopted,“ he said. I didn’t even speak Swedish at the time but I was very flattered!
What's the best/ worst part of your job?
I am a food geek, I love everything about food and spend all my time thinking about it, so the best part of my job is I get to cook and be around food and people think that I am cool when really I am just a food nerd. The worst part of my job is when I have put all my effort into a dish and then I burn it or mess it up – it makes me really mad when that happens.
What's your favourite Malaysian food?
I really like Nasi Ulam, it has such an interesting combination of tastes. It is fresh and flavourful and best of all there is no MSG in it,which I hate. When you have good ingredients and good flavors you don’t need anything else.
What's your personal favorite meal/ drink at the Five27?
That’s a really hard question because I have created all the dishes at FIVE27 and put a lot of thought into each one. But, at the moment I love the burger and the Salad Nicoise (which is on our lunch menu) both are really filling and healthy. Best drink is our Mojito which is just so fresh and refreshing – perfect!
What's your favoured food and wine/ liquor pairing?
For lunch Salad Nicoise with a nice crisp white Sauvignon Blanc and for dinner slow cooked lamb with a rich Chilean Merlot, like the Vina La Rosa Cornellana Barrel Reserve. On special occasions – Cristal of course – it goes with everything!
The perfect day off would be... to wake up late and go to the beach for some surfing until early evening. Then I would end the day with burgers and ice cold beers while watching the sunset.
A life in the day of a chef is... hectic, exciting, fun, tiring, exhilarating and more. No day is ever the same and that is what keeps you hooked. It’s not a job that you can do without passion.
What's something you'd like guests to know about the cuisine/ drinks prepared at Five27?
At FIVE27 everything is prepared in house, we bake our own bread, make our own pickles, and cure our own salmon. We see each dish through its journey from the delivery of the best ingredients to the preparation, cooking and finally to its presentation to the guest. Our Kitchen and service team are very knowledgeable about everything on the menu and we are all proud of what we do. Our restaurant is a Bistro that delivers high quality in a relaxed, informal setting and we truly appreciate our customers who recognize the passion that we have.
How do you select your ingredients and why?
My personal philosophy is based on the principles of the New Nordic cuisine, which is basically to use the highest quality ingredients provided by local suppliers who are passionate about their products. To re-introduce unusual ingredients then use “slow” cooking methods to bring out the very best of them. Each dish I have created has been inspired by the New Nordic ideals and adapted to use ingredients provided by a dedicated group of local suppliers. The vegetables are organic where possible. Meats are of the highest quality & chemical free. Good ingredients are the absolute key to good food and I like working with people who feel as passionately about this as I do. I told you I was a food geek!
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
We are moving from strength to strength at FIVE27 and have achieved so much in the short time we have been open but there is still a lot that we hope to do. We are getting known for our great food and ambience and now we are hoping to be a place that people can come to and just chill out, relax and enjoy a drink. We will soon be opening FIVE27 ICE BAR which will serve Swedish Vodka, Ice cold beers and fun cocktails until late with great bar food and sharing platters. I regularly change our menus and am always on the lookout for new and exciting flavours which I introduce under the Chef’s recommendations menu. So I think we all have a lot to look forward to at FIVE27.