Chai Chun Boon
In this interview, Chai Chun Boon, senior chef de cuisine at The Datai Langkawi, shares how he got into the industry and upcoming plans.
What do you do?
I’m the Senior Chef de Cuisine in charge of the western outlets at The Datai Langkawi.
How did you get into the industry?
I have been inclined to express myself through art from a young age. I chose cooking as a form of expression. This, combined with the possibility to travel around the world, made becoming a chef the job that offered the best of both worlds.
Share with us a story from behind the scenes.
Not a story but more of a ritual that has been a practice/culture in many kitchens, which generally happens at the end of a staff’s tenure, almost like a Kitchen Baptism. It’s a celebration gesture of sorts or farewell salute for those who have been well received as part of the tea. As the name baptism goes, a liquid gets poured over individuals with an element of surprise. One of the most ‘memorable’ ones for me were fermented offal liquids… needless to say, I still cringe to this day.
What’s a food memory from your childhood or travels that stands out?
A Chinese reunion celebration dinner at the Restaurant Joel Robuchon A Galera in Macau 2007 was why I decided to quit my job in Malaysia and travel the world to learn from the best I could at the time. While I have since come to enjoy more variety of fine food without being locked down by traditional European formats, I would say Joel Robuchon’s restaurant has been the epitome for fine dining lovers and chefs-in-training for many young cooks at one point. I was definitely one of them.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of the job is being able to guide the team through the best service any chef could have while striving for excellence with the customers singing praise.
The worst part of the job is seeing team members or younger cooks give up prematurely due to various reasons.
What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing?
A well-executed degustation meal with tea pairing.
What’s one of the most memorable things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
Many experiences, but one that strikes me the most was a CDC of a two-star deboning a whole pigeon in 45 seconds.
The perfect day off would be…
… chilling by a Spanish beach during summer. You must experience it yourself!
A day in the life of a chef is…
… striving for excellence every day, problem-solving as well as uplifting and growing the team in a positive manner.
What do you do for fun?
I spend the day with my kids and loved ones.
What’s something you’d like guests to know about The Dining Room?
The Dining Room’s first dish in my degustation menu is a tribute to my late father for allowing me to travel the world to cook, supporting all of my dreams and always being proud of my every little achievement. He gave me reasons to push further each step, and I continue to do so to this day.
How has the pandemic changed you, your perspective, or the way you operate?
It made me a better chef/entrepreneur, forced me to make wiser and more calculated business decisions, helped me define my top clientele and customer segment and also pushed for better sales.
What’s something you’d like people to know about being a chef as a profession?
Being a chef is a lot of hard work, true grit, perseverance, mental and physical work. It’s more than just cooking. It moulds us to be better communicators as well as a leader. Cooking good food is basic.
What’s your view on the food and beverage scene in Malaysia?
Getting better with covid restrictions slowly being lifted.
What practices do you currently implement or hope to implement in the future to work towards social responsibility and sustainability?
We try to be self-sustainable by having a permaculture garden and composting area. We collect and divide waste for recycling, composting and general trash. We have also implemented a no-single-use plastics policy on the premises.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
Menu engineering, setting up systems in the kitchen and lots of quality and service training.
Read more interviews such as this one with Chai Chun Boon here, and stay up to date with the latest food and beverage happenings in KL here.
Eyewww!!! The Kitchen Baptism!
“Datai” means “come” in Sarawak’s ethnic Iban language.
Wow. Deboning a bird in 45 seconds?? That is amazing.
Copper now in Datai