What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
My name is Lim Heng Kit and I am a chef/restauranteur of Li restaurant. It started out as a second option after dreams of playing professional football. Both cooking and football have similar philosophies whereby teamwork and handwork are needed to achieve something. From that little seed I decided to go to culinary school in Taylors as well as study a degree in Culinary arts in William Angliss Institute, Melbourne, Australia. Soon after I’ve worked in a number of cafes and restaurants in Melbourne and Malaysia and have never looked back.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
A couple years back before opening Li, I was lucky enough to be be a stagiaire for a restaurant called Brae in the quiet town of Birregura, Victoria. It was probably one of the toughest and most inspiring experiences I’ve had in my career. During my time there I learned about the farm to table ethos restaurant. My day would start with a trip to the restaurant garden where we would pick various types of herbs and vegetables and collec farm fresh eggs from the barn. They also used as much local seafood, meats and dairy for the restaurant daily. Putting aside all the techniques learned, what I felt I brought along with me was the hard-work, discipline and the attention to detail needed to put up good quality and delicious food. Even though Li does not seem to be similar to Brae from the outside, the philosophies here are pretty much the same at heart.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is that I get to do what I love everyday. Cooking, creating and honing my craft day in day out is something I truly appreciate as well as being able to make people happy with a plate of food. The worst part of working as a chef is not having enough time to spend with loved ones.
What’s your favourite meal/ drink at Li Restaurant?
All of the dishes at Li are my favourite but if I had to pick one it would have to be our ikan bilis congee (anchovy porridge). The congee is cooked in an ikan bilis stock, topped with a sous vide egg, house made fish sauce caramel to give a salty sweet flavour, spring onion puree for a light oniony taste, crispy ikan bills and dehydrated kai lan which resembles seaweed when mixed together. The reason why it is my favourite dish on the menu is because this dish was inspired by my grand aunt growing up. My take on it is obviously different but when you do take a bite of the dish, it brings me back to when I was younger.
What’s one of the scariest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
One of the scariest moments for us here was when we did an interior revamp of Li. It was exciting but also a nervous time for us as we have been opened for one a year but we learned that not only did we have to come up with good products and service, we also needed to create and overall dining experience for our guests. The process was really interesting and new to us. We collaborated with the designers from Paperspace and we came up with an idea to combine features of a kopitiam, which is basically what Li is today. It was also exciting to find out that they were actually customers of Li before we even approached them.
The perfect day off would be…
To start my day with a trip to the local markets to explore new ingredients as my team and I are always looking for new and old stuff to work with. After that, it would be to have a meal at a local restaurant located in SS2 called Tang Pin for amazing pork noodles. In the evening I would head out for a jog and I’ll end the night with a simple home-cooked meal along with a glass of white wine.
A day in the life of a chef is…
Non-stop. First it’s to come into the restaurant early in the morning to check on the produce and ingredients for the cooks to work with, and then planning the mise en place for the day to ensure that we keep ourselves organised. Then it’s running lunch and dinner service, as well as having daily meetings in order to always improve and be on our toes to build the business.
What do you do for fun?
Growing up I had dreams of playing football professionally. So what I do for fun nowadays is to keep in touch with my roots by playing football whenever possible.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Li Restaurant?
Something that I would like guests to know about Li is that it isn’t just an ordinary neighbourhood restaurant. The restaurant is built on family values hence the name. The name ‘Li’ is a combination of my partners and my surname (Lee and Lim). This created a core of what we try to do at Li which is to cook from our hearts while incorporating some things we have learned from abroad. We also try to incorporate contemporary ideas to our food and our restaurant to show what restaurants here can become.
What’s your favourite food and wine pairing?
Fried chicken and a good natural wine, preferably a glass of chardonnay.
What’s your view on the food scene in Kuala Lumpur?
My view on the Kuala Lumpur hospitality scene is that a lot more smaller run restaurants and chefs are coming up with much more personal, interesting and delicious ideas. What I hope can happen is that more customers look to support smaller run Malaysian restaurants rather than larger scale companies.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
In the upcoming months, Li will be working with more local produce so we can come up with more interesting dishes and drinks, as well as creating a more extensive menu for a better dining experience.
Read about our experience at LI Restaurant here.