In this interview, Ryan Teh, Head Chef at Evoke Gastrobar, tells of how the pandemic has changed him as a chef and person and his approach to life and business.
What do you do?
I slice, dice, fry, braise, clean, chop, bake, brine, boil, grill, steam, grind, julienne etc. Basically, I am the Head Chef at Evoke Gastrobar.
How did you get into the industry?
My grandmother and my mother are my greatest inspiration! I have been watching them cook since I was young at home. I miss and love every single dish that they have made for my family and me. I have always wanted to be able to replicate their awesome home-cooked meals.
I finished my Australian Year 12 then I decided to pursue my career in the hospitality industry. I first started my culinary journey at At-Sunrice Culinary Academy in Singapore, where I attained my Diploma in Culinary Arts. While I was studying, I was fortunate enough to intern for the Emmanuel Stroobant Group in their French Bistro and the Din Tai Fung Group, where I had to opportunity to be posted in a few outlets. After graduating, I moved on to work for a couple of restaurants in Singapore before going back to school for my pastry course. This time, I went to Le Cordon Bleu Paris to do my course. There’s no better place to learn how to make pastries than in France. After that, I came back to KL to continue working and landed a position in the newly opened Drift Bar and Dining before moving on to Babe by Jeff Ramsey.
Share with us a story from behind the scenes.
Live frog committed suicide by jumping into the deep fryer… Death by frying!
What’s a food memory from your childhood or travels that stands out?
Fried marinated pork ribs made by my grandmother. I used to accompany her to get groceries, then help her prep all the ingredients, wash the dishes etc. It evokes fond memories of my time as a little assistant chef for my grandmother. Daily family meals definitely brighten up my day.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best is the satisfaction of a good busy service where customers are happy with their food, and everything goes smoothly. Minor hiccups acceptable.
The worst part has to be the crazy amount of hours we put into our work and not having enough hours for ourselves.
What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing?
Teh o ice limau with nasi kandar.
What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
The craziest has to be the after-hours parties behind closed doors with explicit content.
I can tell you more, off the record…
The perfect day off would be…
Waking up on a beach with awesome food and beer (maybe with a massage included as well…bliss)
A day in the life of a Ryan Teh is…
HECTIC! Set up kitchen, prep time, lunch service, prep time, cook staff meals, dinner service, clean up, ordering for the next day, booze, more booze, then sleep!
What do does Ryan Teh do for fun?
Eat, sleep, drink, repeat.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Evoke?
We serve hearty and wholesome European dishes in a casual dining environment. I want my dishes to evoke flavours and memories of my days in Europe, from savoury pate, succulent beef bourguignon to the sweet and decadent Mont Blanc. My forte is French cooking techniques, hence, classic French dishes on the menu with my own twist on them.
Italian cuisine, as we all know, is mainly pasta, risottos, bread, etc. I make our own version of arancini, polenta, and pasta, by adding locally sourced quality ingredients. Hence, we decided on these two main types of European cuisine – French and Italian, served the Spanish way, tapas-style.
How has the pandemic changed you, your perspective or the way you operate?
We are definitely working with more uncertainties and surprises during this period.
I have become even more stringent and cost-savvy on things. I’ve found ways to even further reduce wastage and minimise ingredient purchases. This has made my dishes more flexible to be tweaked at the very last minute.
What’s something you’d like people to know about being a chef as a profession?
Don’t expect to get rich doing this. A lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into working in this profession.
What’s your view on the food/drink scene in KL?
The F&B scene in KL has improved tremendously over the past few years. More hipsters, minimalist, creative restaurants have flooded the market. This shows that the younger generation has stepped up to the new trends. It has given us more variety in the market to choose from, plus more ingredients previously unavailable to work with.
How has the pandemic changed Ryan Teh as a person?
It has helped me prioritise my life, i.e. personal wellbeing. I am more health-conscious now. I take daily doses of apple cider vinegar, for example.
How has the pandemic changed you as a chef?
The situation has really gotten me to re-look at how my food is and make it more approachable to the masses.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
Mostly coming up with more dishes to make the menu more enticing and more innovative. From, Four Hands Dinner collaboration with my peers, my dishes paired with Celina’s cocktails, once the liquor license is in, to weekend brunch menus.