Interview with Chef Gordon Robertson, Suffolk House Restaurant, Penang, Malaysia - The Yum List
Food and luxury travel – Malaysia and the world
Interview with Chef Gordon Robertson, Suffolk House Restaurant, Penang, Malaysia
Chef Gordon Robertson
Chef Gordon Robertson is the new chef in town and he has lots of exciting things to share with residents and visitors to the island of Penang.
What do you do and how did you got into the industry?
My mum was my inspiration – she was so imaginative and creative in the kitchen, always trying new recipes and flavours and always took such care and pride in her cooking – even as kids our meals were garnished! And after cooking for the kids, she would cook a different meal for her and dad when he got home from work. She’s my real food hero! We were so lucky that my dad worked all over the world (and took us with him I hasten to add) so we have always had the benefit of exciting and authentic foods – that certainly has influenced my appreciation of the global larder.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
I remember by dad telling me when I was young that you had to strike a balance – he had decided to work to live rather than live to work. A bit difficult when you have to eat on your days off though! As Winston Churchill once said “If you love your job, you need never go to work again” and for me this is true. I derive so much pleasure working with flavours, smells and textures and combining them in new harmonies. It is a great outlet for creativity and artistry as we can harness emotion and passion in our combinations.
The hardest part of my job here at Suffolk House is not being fluent in Malay yet so I miss being able to express myself as I would like to the brigade and to discuss produce properly with suppliers.
What’s your personal favourite meal at Suffolk House?
I smile everytime I plate up the Cornish hen and corn quartet – it’s such a fun and frisky plate; the combination is so natural – chickens eat corn, so keep them together! I love the different accents of corn, and the truffle oil brings the whole dish together so well.
What’s one of the most outrageous things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
As a true professional, I believe in going to any length to deliver to the client the best produce possible. In my last job, at the Admirable Crichton in London, we were unable to get hold of Romanesco cauliflower which we needed for a big job. Unable to source it in the UK, or even in Europe, a contact said there was a field that had some behind the Dolder Grand in Zürich… so I drove 3000KM roundtrip to collect them. It was only a garnish and the client to this day doesn’t know what we did, but that’s good service for you!
The perfect day off would be…
… I rescued a Rottweiler a few years ago and she is the most precious thing to me – it’s not an easy thing to get her over here as she’s a restricted breed, however I look forward to days off for longs walks and hikes. She’s not going to love me for the heat here, but she does love water, so hopefully she will enjoy the sea. And no day off would be a success without some form of indulgence, so a massage or a nice meal with friends would definitely be on the cards.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about the cuisine prepared at Suffolk House?
Here more than in any kitchen I have ever run, the food is considered so precisely as we have an extremely difficult supply chain being on an island, and um… there’s an enormous tree growing right through the middle of the kitchen!
How do you select your ingredients and why?
With a pinch of fairy dust in the hope that they actually arrive!
What’s your view on the Penang food/ restaurant scene?
It’s a bit of a buffet! It’s so refreshing to have street-food as a selling point for the island! “Streetfood” is definitely ‘on-trend’ in global demand in the event business and I think in the natural cycle of complication, it is simple, honest and authentic that is having a renaissance. The myriad of free-standing restaurants is a wonderful thing for entrepreneurial and creative spirits and Penang caters for a great tourist trade as well as local, expat and developing business communities.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
I’d like to inject a little fun into the afternoon tea offering, and I’d love to start a traditional Sunday roast offering.
See some of Chef Gordon’s creations in our review of Suffolk House Restaurant via this link.