|Chef Bong Jun Choi|
Chef Bong tells The Yum List about life as a chef and some lessons learned in the kitchen.
What do you do and how did you got into the industry?
Currently I’m the Executive Chef at China Treasures KLGCC.
I never liked school to be honest. At the age of 13, I hung up my school bag and began helping my father and uncle at the dim sum stall they operated in Melaka. It was then I discovered my passion in cooking.
After helping my father and uncle for about 4 years, I decided to explore my skills further. I left for Singapore to work in a chinese seafood seafood restaurant. We often hear stories about kitchen apprentices being reprimanded by their seniors and chefs. However, I suppose I am lucky I had a wonderful master chef who not only taught me well but treated me as a family member. He even bought me a radio and a branded watch as rewards for my hard work. He was patient and always willing to share his knowledge. That inspired me to learn even harder to be a good chef.
That was more than thirty years ago but I will always be grateful to my master for all the things he taught me. Throughout my career, I have cooked for many people from all walks of life including kings and queens from many countries around the world. It has been a wonderful experience and still is for me.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
Once when I was working in Hong Kong, I was summoned by a customer who asked me if I knew how to cook a good congee. I have been forewarned by my fellow chef about this fussy customer. Instead of replying him, I politely asked if he would be so kind to teach me how. The customer happily shared every step of the way and I followed his instructions precisely. He was pleased with the result.
The lesson behind this is – “No matter how good we think we are, Customer is always King.”
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is I have the immense opportunity to savour and delight in virtually infinite styles of dishes.
The worst part of the job is I need to work during festive seasons and public holidays. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten used to that and besides, I love my work.
What’s your favourite Malaysian food?
Plenty! Nasi Lemak, Curry Fish Head, Char Kuew Teow, Nyonya Kuih, Nasi Kandar… lot more !
What’s your personal favourite meal/ drink?
Teoh Chew Porridge and warm soya milk prepared by my loving wife at home.
What’s your favoured food and wine/ liquor pairing?
Black pepper beef tenderloin and red wine. I quite like Shiraz from Australia and Chile. French is best but costly.
The perfect day off would be…
On a beautiful Sunday morning, grab the basket and off to the market with my wife.
She shops for the ingredients she would like me to cook for her and vice versa.
We have a simple breakfast at our favourite local coffee shop and catch up with some friends there.
Next we head home to start cooking. It’s priceless for me to be able to cook and enjoy the food with my wife and three sons.
While I enjoy almost every dish she cooks, she loves my chinese-style double boiled chicken soup, baked chicken and steamed fish with black beans.
After lunch with the family, we take a rest and towards the evening go cycling with the whole family around our neighbourhood.
Dinner is of course with the family and before we retire to bed, I do enjoy cleaning up the dishes together with the family.
I am seldom at home due to my work therefore family time is very valuable for me.
A life in the day of a chef is…
Pretty much the same for all chefs, I suppose.
Paper work on banquet orders, restaurant reservations lists, checking on emails and briefings in the mornings.
An early lunch for me before kitchen operations start at 11am to 3pm.
3pm to 5:30pm is break time. This time is usually filled with more meetings and paper work before an early dinner.
Kitchen operations start again at 5:30pm to 10:30pm before calling it a day.
What do you do for fun?
Travelling and hunting for nice food. I also like to stay in touch with friends on FaceBook although my wife feels I am too old for that!
What’s something you’d like guests to know about the cuisine/ drinks prepared at China Treasures?
We serve a variety of Steamboat, skillful Cantonese & Szechuan Cuisine, live fish and supreme Chinese tea at China Treasures.
For me, cooking comes from the heart and soul. That makes all the difference!