In this interview, chef Gary Chang from Champignons at Oasis, shares how he got started in the industry and his thoughts on the restaurant scene in Malaysia.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
My ambition of being a chef rooted in my heart since I was a kid. It was greatly influenced by my dear mom. I helped my mom in her char kwai teow hawker store when I was 10 years old. After working through those busy rush hours, I usually indulged myself a “my-style” char kwai teow.
I continued to develop my interest in cooking. I eagerly wanted to become a chef (Chinese food) and stop studying at Form 3. However, my dad insisted that I pursue higher education before continuing onto the culinary path. After struggling through secondary school, I got to know more about western culinary from different TV shows and magazines. Finally, I decided to take a Professional Culinary Course at KDU college and went to further study in Switzerland for the European Culinary Arts Program.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of my job is having the chance to taste different ingredients and cultures from around the world by travelling to explore diverse cuisine. On the downside, I sacrifice precious time to be with my family and friends due to long working hours.
Memorable food moments?
Depending on where I work, I look for local delicacies. In Macau, I explored Chinese Cantonese cuisine by top chefs. When back home in Malaysia, I look for nice Malay or Indian cuisine to ignite my taste buds.
The perfect day off would be…
… to wake up early, hang around in the city and look for some local delicacies. I always find some surprises!
Also, I like to sit in a quiet cafe to relax my mind with a cup of latte.
Cooking for my family is also the best thing to do on my day off. Chit chat around with them and update each other. This is definitely my biggest joy!
What’s something you’d like people to know about being a chef as a profession?
I would like to give a piece of advice to those who would like to be a chef. Being a chef is not easy, and there is never a shortcut. There are lots of basic skills and techniques which you have to learn, practice and remember tightly in your mind. Moreover, you will definitely encounter many obstacles and failures in this career path. When you feel frustrated and can’t find yourself, please go back to the basic principles. Persevere in what you have been striving for.
What’s your view on the food scene in KL?
In recent years, people in Malaysia have been pursuing higher quality dining experiences. The demand for top quality food is increasing. Compared to other Asian countries, like Singapore and Japan, we still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, more and more Malaysian chefs who have worked overseas are returning home. They are setting up signature restaurants and bringing their own tastes and experiences, which develop the industry. KL could be the next food paradise with the contribution from the home-returning chefs together with the existing Malaysian food culture.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
Malaysia is a precious land with a massive amount of natural resources. My next focus is to use all premium locally-grown or raised ingredients in my cooking, only using the elements which are at its best.