RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
Crowned Asia’s Best Female Chef 2021, DEAILLE TAM has found her niche in connecting diners and their memories through her interpretation of classic Chinese dishes. She talks to STEPHENIE GEE about following her heart and how Shangri-La helped pave her way
OLLOWING MY HEART” is a phrase that pops up repeatedly during my conversation with
DeAille Tam, and with good reason.
Asia’s Best Female Chef 2021 started cooking while pursuing her degree in civil engineering. But what began as a necessity soon transformed into a passion that only grew the more she delved into the practice.
“I would call my mum and ask her for recipes in the middle of exams, like, ‘ How do you make hong shao rou?’” recalls Tam with a laugh. “And she would be like, ‘ Why do you want to make hong shao rou? It takes too much time!’
“Slowly I came to the realisation that I really enjoyed the time that I got to spend in the kitchen dealing with ingredients, recipes and testing out things that I’ve never experienced before. I started taking [cooking] classes as a leisure activity alongside working at engineering firms, and that leisure class slowly led to fulltime courses, full-time study and full-time working in the kitchen.”
Returning to her native Hong Kong from Canada in 2014, Tam joined the renowned “Demon Chef” Alvin Leung at his muchlauded Bo Innovation, before moving to Shanghai to launch Bo Shanghai. There, she distinguished herself as the first woman in Mainland China to earn a Michelin star.
That was just the beginning. For
Tam, food has never been just about food but rather connections, whether they be between people, culture or memories.
This is the territory Tam wades into with Obscura, the Michelin-starred fine- dining destination helmed by Tam and her husband, Simon Wong.
“People’s memories of food stay within something they’re familiar with, such as their hometown, and those are often based on a lot of classic or traditional methods of cooking,” explains Tam, who at Obscura hopes to build a bridge between diners and their home with a menu dedicated to spotlighting the intricacies of Chinese cuisine through elegant interpretations of classic dishes.
Like the land it hails from, Chinese cuisine is broad in variety. Coupled with a rich tapestry of culture and tradition, it takes more than just knowledge of techniques and flavours to elicit feelings. “Memory and emotion – it’s a very interesting thing because it’s not something you can easily describe
“People’s memories of food stay within something they’re familiar with, and are often based on cooking methods”