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Harper’s Bazaar (Malaysia) - - Fashionable Life -

Chef James Won, owner-chef of En­fin by James Won, is trans­form­ing the lo­cal culi­nary scene, as a firm ad­vo­cate of sus­tain­able farming.

You’ve been get­ting your hands dirty, go­ing into the for­est to for­age for in­gre­di­ents. Are you working on de­vel­op­ing your food-grow­ing tech­niques?

I’ve spent the last two years do­ing a lot of re­search, try­ing to find what is fea­si­ble and read­ily avail­able. When it comes to for­ag­ing in­gre­di­ents that are unique to Malaysia, it is a col­lec­tive ef­fort with the na­tives in the jun­gle. We are working on farming on a smaller scale that is cen­tred around high-qual­ity pro­duce and sus­tain­abil­ity.

What is your big­gest source of in­spi­ra­tion?

Na­ture and the peo­ple who are sur­rounded by the beauty of it. We have an abun­dance of unique in­gre­di­ents out there, some­where in the wild, but peo­ple are not ac­tively mak­ing an ef­fort to seek it. For ex­am­ple, we have wild av­o­ca­dos, pep­per leaves, arugula, and sor­rels. These are fancy in­gre­di­ents that are im­ported, but are ac­tu­ally right in front of us. It all comes down to tak­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity to cham­pion what we have to of­fer.

How are these new in­gre­di­ents you dis­cover re­flected in your food cre­ations?

It has changed the way I struc­ture my menu. When en­coun­ter­ing un­fa­mil­iar in­gre­di­ents, your mind is al­most like an empty can­vas, and there are no lim­its. This al­lows you to have more com­plex­ity, depth, and orig­i­nal­ity in a creation, which ul­ti­mately el­e­vates the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

What changes do you wish to see in fine din­ing es­tab­lish­ments in Malaysia?

Din­ers usu­ally ex­pect a cheese cart in restau­rants, but why don’t we have a trop­i­cal fruit cart? From my ex­cur­sions to the wild, I have dis­cov­ered a va­ri­ety of ex­otic fruit such as caramel-tast­ing ba­nanas, which could im­part an ex­cit­ing touch to a very re­fined meal. A love to feed the mind, that’s what we need. 2.05, Level 2, Me­nara Hap Seng, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 010-288 7920. www.en­fin­restau­rants.com

James Won

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