Kitchen Con­fi­den­tial

Food and Travel (Singapore) - - Contents -

The owner of Miche­lin-starred Tate Din­ing Room & Bar in Hong Kong – Vicky Lau was named Best Fe­male Chef 2015 by the or­gan­is­ers of Asia’s 50 Best Restau­rants. In this in­ter­view, she speaks to us about her ca­reer switch from graphic de­sign to cook­ing, up­com­ing food trends, and her plans for the fu­ture

At what age did you start cook­ing, and who first taught you how to cook?

I didn’t learn how to cook un­til I was in high school when I had to cook for my­self in board­ing school in the United States. The din­ing hall food was the only source of meals, so the for­eign stu­dents would of­ten crave for home­cooked food. On week­ends we would gather in each other’s dorm rooms and cook up a storm – with just a mini elec­tric stove and rice cooker.

How would you de­scribe your culi­nary style?

My style is fem­i­nine and cre­ative, with a fo­cus on sto­ry­telling. I like to con­sider my dishes ‘Ed­i­ble Sto­ries’. Due to my back­ground in graphic de­sign, I tend to start with a theme, a nar­ra­tive or a con­cept, and build on that.

What was it like when you were crowned Asia’s Best Fe­male Chef in 2015?

I was very happy, sur­prised and hon­oured to re­ceive this award. I never set out to win ac­co­lades, much less “Asia’s Best Fe­male Chef”. I just wanted to do what I love.

This award has also opened the doors to more op­por­tu­ni­ties. It al­lowed me to meet more peo­ple for the chance to col­lab­o­rate on new things, and many of them have shared their in­spi­ra­tion and vi­sion, adding to this ex­cit­ing jour­ney.

What was it like when Tate Din­ing Room & Bar re­ceived one Miche­lin star?

I was truly thrilled to re­ceive this recog­ni­tion. I was also a tremen­dous en­cour­age­ment for our team and their un­com­pro­mis­ing stan­dards and ded­i­ca­tion.

How did your graphic de­sign back­ground in­flu­ence your cook­ing style?

As a graphic de­signer I had an un­der­stand­ing of how vis­ual cues like form, colour, tone and tex­ture can be used to trig­ger a mem­ory or evoke a re­sponse. This un­der­stand­ing helps me pay at­ten­tion to all the finer de­tails.

Who were some of your men­tors that you looked up to?

Chef Sebastien Lepinoy – he was my men­tor when I worked at Cepage in Hong Kong. He in­spired me a great deal, teach­ing me cook­ing tech­niques, the im­por­tance of de­tail and be­ing aware of what was around you. His cook­ing phi­los­o­phy, and it’s one that’s shared in all the arts, is that sim­plic­ity is the sign of per­fec­tion.

Where do you get in­spi­ra­tion when you have to come up with new dishes?

The big­gest in­flu­ence would be the avail­able in­gre­di­ents around me and their flavour pro­files, ei­ther from the per­spec­tive of how they can trig­ger a mem­ory, or from ex­plor­ing some­thing new.

In­spi­ra­tion can come from any­where if you seek it with an open mind and pay at­ten­tion to what is go­ing on around you. Some­times a movie or a piece of music can pro­voke a feel­ing or spark an idea; it just de­pends on how you in­ter­pret it and how it re­lates to you. Some­times your in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the same el­e­ment can evolve over time, as you do. Your own dish can serve as a source of in­spi­ra­tion in the fu­ture, and evolve into another dish. In this way you’re al­ways try­ing to beat your pre­vi­ous best.

Could you share with us the in­spi­ra­tion be­hind Tate Din­ing Room?

Tate is a name for the imag­i­nary char­ac­ter of the restau­rant. It helps me and the guests give the restau­rant its own unique per­son­al­ity.

For me cook­ing is a har­mony of art, craft and sci­ence. I am driven by my pas­sion to tell a story. At Tate, I serve “Ed­i­ble Sto­ries” with each dish con­vey­ing an over­ar­ch­ing theme, ab­stract con­cept or mem­ory. The pre­sen­ta­tion of the dish pro­vides the nar­ra­tive where each in­gre­di­ent is its own char­ac­ter and the in­ter­play be­tween the nu­anced flavours, aro­mas and tex­tures re­veal the plot.

Could you share with us your thoughts on up­com­ing food trends?

Go­ing back to na­ture and un­der­stand­ing the mean­ing of real, whole and nat­u­ral foods is now more and more im­por­tant to me and I think chefs these days are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to that.

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