|Chef Soon, Fisherman's Cove, Feast Village, Starhill Gallery,|
The Yum List recently dined at Fisherman's Cove in Starhill Gallery and had a chance to meet its chef de partie, Chef Soon.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I am a chef de partie at Fisherman's Cove. After graduation, I was initially torn between pursuing a biology degree and joining the culinary industry as I have a profound interest in both fields. Eventually I settled for the latter, because I really really really love to eat. In my culinary pursuit, I have dabbled in many styles, from Japanese to Spanish to Italian, before I discovered the all-encompassing style, Fusion, in Fisherman's Cove, where I met my mentor, Chef Wai. He is an extremely supportive superior who is always there to advice me on various issues I encounter in this industry. Under his tutelage, I have been emboldened to explore and experiment with new food combinations. So far, this has been a very liberating experience, and a vital one for me to enhance my culinary skills in the Fusion style.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
There are times my work extends beyond culinary duty. When Chinese tourists—who lack basic English language skills—arrive, I am often required to serve them personally, being one of the few Chinese staff at the restaurant, and the others being mostly Malay or of other ethnic groups. Over time, I've built up my own list of regular customers like most service staff do. So, I am beginning to consider myself a part-time service staff.
What's the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is I can never get hungry at work.*wink* No; all jokes aside, the best part is I get to do what I like to do most: cooking. All the time!
As for the worst part, it is definitely the long working hours of course. Sometimes there are inevitably other priorities that compete for your time and attention, besides working or/and having fun.
What's your personal favourite meal?
My favourite food is my mom's Hakka yong tou fu (which literally means stuffed bean curd). It is a popular dish said to have originated among the Hakka people (an ethnic chinese group) and has inspired many variants (hence the emphasis on 'Hakka', which is synonymous with 'authenticity' in this context) since its creation in the '70s. It is also a favourite dish among the local folks.
Tell us a story about one of the dishes you prepare...
I particularly enjoy preparing the symphony of hors d'oeuvre. These are tailor-made appertisers that are not shown on the a la carte menu and are generally recommended to customers who value a truly unique culinary experience. The importance of serving the best symphony of hors d'oeuvre lies in working out the best combination to optimise flavour in accordance with the personal taste and preference of a customer. I find this very challenging and upon receiving a favourable comment from the customer, very very rewarding.
What's one of the unsettling things you've seen behind the scenes?
Live fish. When I had to butcher them for the first time in an open kitchen, it was probably one of the most challenging moments in my career. I am not a vegetarian; and despite having an abundance of experience of working with fresh meat, I had never butchered live animals before. It felt really cruel in the beginning. But necessity hardened my resolve, and soon I would become accustomed to it.
The perfect day off would be...
Time spent with my family, especially at a homemade dinner, with mom's Hakka yong tou fu preferably.
A day in the life of a chef is...
Very hectic. It takes real passion to appreciate every single aspect of it, and to make the associated long working hours bearable if not enjoyable. From receiving and selecting fresh raw ingredients, to preparing, combining and turning them into appetising food, to serving them to diners, a chef has to be very mindful in every step in order to deliver the best dining experience to his/her customers.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy traveling: experiencing and learning about things and people of various cultural origins. For the very same reason, I also love to listen to world music. I find it to be a great source for inspiration.
What's something you'd like guests to know about the cuisine/ drinks prepared at Fisherman's Cove?
We aim to deliver the finest food, drinks and services possible to customers, with not only exemplary skills and quality ingredients, but also with transparency and accountability. Our seafood are catch of the day, comfortably kept in fish tanks, from which customers can select eye-catching seafood and decide on their preparations (on chef's recommendation if needed).
We also have an open kitchen where customers can interact with the our chefs directly to personalise food to further suit their needs. Our service staff are always attentive to customers' feedback, complaints and demands to maximise food quality.
How do you select your ingredients and why?
I always choose the freshest and most applicable ingredients I can grab from trusted suppliers who do not compromise on quality in the pursuit of profit. If local ingredients are essential to providing the best dining experience, I will make sure local ingredients are obtained; and if exotic ingredients are needed to attain an authentic foreign flavour, then those ingredients will be imported. Never compromise! I will also personally source for raw ingredients whenever possible, for with control comes quality
Other than that, I also find it important to preserve raw ingredients and minimise food wastage in the kitchen as food is very precious to us.
What's your view on the KL restaurant scene?
Kuala Lumpur (KL) is a true melting pot on which different cuisines as distinct as Italian and Japanese converge and compete in many fashions (from fine dining to street) to satisfy diners that are just as diverse and unique. Malaysians are well-known for our love of food so much so that we are also known to be the fattest people in the entire South-east Asia (according to the latest study) *laugh*. So there will always be a strong demand for food, and we cherish and take pride in our food diversity just as much as we do in our cultural diversity. So foreign and new cuisines will always be welcome.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
A brand new a la carte menu! It is still a work in progress though, and a very early one at that. While we are not able to confirm its release date, it will have been completed before the year end.