Exquisite Taste - - Up Close & Personal - By Amanda Lux­ford.

: What made you de­cide upon a ca­reer in the kitchen? Have you al­ways wanted to be a chef?

Leong: I left school at the age of 15 with lit­tle am­bi­tion. As my un­cle had a restau­rant at the time in Malaysia, I was sent to work in the kitchen. The more I learnt, the more cook­ing started to pique my in­ter­est.

: Prior to The Fuller­ton Ho­tel Sin­ga­pore, where did you work?

L: From 2003 to 2007, I was Chi­nese Ex­e­cu­tife chef of the highly ac­claimed Zheng He’s restau­rant at Mina A’Salam at the Mad­i­nat Jumeirah re­sort in Dubai.

: What would you say have been the high­lights of the last decade at Jade? L: Re­ceiv­ing the World Gourmet Sum­mit award was def­i­nitely one of the high­lights, but be­ing able to ex­press my­self through a va­ri­ety of cre­ative out­lets has also meant a lot to me. Four years ago, I started Yu Sheng cal­lig­ra­phy dur­ing the Lu­nar New Year sea­son at Jade and in trib­ute to Sin­ga­pore’s Golden Ju­bilee, dur­ing SG50 I held my first per­sonal art ex­hi­bi­tion “Ce­ram­ics In­dul­gence” ( ) at the East Gar­den Foyer of The Fuller­ton Ho­tel Sin­ga­pore

Since first join­ing The Fuller­ton Ho­tel Sin­ga­pore as chef de cui­sine of Jade restau­rant back in 2007, Chef Leong has con­tin­ued to build upon his long-stand­ing rep­u­ta­tion for culi­nary ex­cel­lence, a fact recog­nised at the re­cent World Gourmet Sum­mit Awards where he net­ted the cov­eted ti­tle of Ma­jes­tic

Restau­rant Asian Cui­sine Chef of the Year 2016.

: You have some amaz­ing sig­na­ture dishes – do you have a per­sonal favourite? L: Yes, my wok-fried diced beef ten­der­loin with sliced gar­lic in black pep­per sauce. It took a lot of work to get ex­actly what I wanted in terms of con­sis­tency and flavour.

: Per­haps un­usu­ally your menus feature a mix of re­gional Chi­nese styles – how do you en­sure au­then­tic­ity?

L: I study the style of the cui­sine to un­der­stand the main in­gre­di­ents used in each dish, then draw in­spi­ra­tion from dif­fer­ent in­ter­pre­ta­tions of it. I try to un­der­stand how it is cooked and ex­per­i­ment with rein­ter­pret­ing the flavours through form or tech­nique. From this re­search, I cre­ate a re­gional Chi­nese dish that bears au­then­tic char­ac­ter­is­tics.

: Can you tell us a bit about the outof-menu ex­pe­ri­ence you have been cham­pi­oning over re­cent years?

L: I have a reg­u­lar guest who shares his thoughts with me on how he would like his dishes pre­pared in Jade, which of­ten sparks new ideas. Once he re­quested a crab dish with­out its shell, so I made a crab salad with crab claw and Thai chilli. I feel a par­tic­u­lar con­nec­tion with this guest as he is in the lum­ber busi­ness, just as my fa­ther was, and we have a sim­i­lar in­ter­est in the arts.

: What are the chal­lenges that chefs face in Sin­ga­pore?

L: For a small coun­try, we have a lot of din­ing op­tions and new res­tau­rants open daily. It’s a com­pet­i­tive land­scape and we have to cre­ate some­thing new to con­tin­u­ally de­light our guests.

: What can guests look for­ward to in 2017? L: With Jade re­cently un­der­go­ing a restora­tion, my phi­los­o­phy is to con­tinue pro­vid­ing con­sis­tency for our din­ers to en­joy high qual­ity cui­sine within our newly trans­formed in­te­ri­ors.

: Away from the kitchen, what do you do for fun?

L: Pos­sess­ing a deep appreciation for the arts, I en­joy ce­ramic mak­ing and Chi­nese paint­ing in my free time.

: Any ad­vice for bud­ding chefs?

L: My ad­vice is to set your own rules in the kitchen and al­ways be hun­gry to learn more about each in­gre­di­ent. Hon­ing your culi­nary skills re­quires a lot of pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion, so do not be afraid to work hard.

As­sorted Dim Sum

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