Denon Lee Choong Wah
In this interview, Denon Lee Choong Wah, chef and co-founder of After One cafe KL, shares a little about his background and some current happenings at the cafe.
What do you do?
I manage After One KL cafe, design menus, train staff, and sometimes make coffee and bartend.
How did you get into the industry?
I have always enjoyed cooking. Later, I went to culinary school and trained in hotels and restaurants.
Share with us a story from behind the scenes.
When I was a prep cook, I used to cut 12 quarts of chives every day. From 90 mins, I challenged myself every day to cut 5 mins faster, and I managed to finish it in 30 mins now. Practice makes perfect.
What food memory from your childhood or travels stands out?
When I travelled to China, I was amazed by all the exotic ingredients from each province, and I’ve tried many delicious Chinese foods. Every area has its unique way of preparing food.
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of the job is to create many different dishes and study and learn about the ingredient’s application. The worst part of the job is dealing with staffing issues and being underpaid.
What’s one of your favourite food and beverage pairings?
My all-time favourite pairing is an almond croissant with an Americano. A flaky, crunchy almond croissant and a sip of sharp aroma coffee make a perfect match.
What’s one of the craziest things you’ve seen behind the scenes?
The craziest thing is I was working non-stop for 36 hours in the kitchen, working for lunch and dinner service and preparing a whole new Thanksgiving menu back in the States.
The perfect day off would be…
Surrounded by good companions and having good food and good conversation.
A day in the life of Denon Lee Choong Wah is…
Read some books, go to work and ensure everything in the cafe is running smoothly, make myself a coffee, go to the gym after work, and sometimes drink at night.
What does Denon Lee Choong Wah do for fun?
I love to work out, do outdoor activities, travel and eat.
What would you like guests to know about After One KL?
After One cafe is focused on healthy eating. We are trying our best to source the best ingredients in town; we try to avoid processed food and ingredients in our kitchen. Making delicious, healthy food is our goal.
How have you grown in your profession? What are your key learnings from your start in the industry until now? Any misconceptions?
Be humble. Always learn from others. Be passionate, consistent, and don’t give up so easily.
What do you want people to know about being a chef as a profession?
Chef is not an easy job, but passion is all you need. You must deal with long hours, demand for perfection, and working on holidays. The F&B industry people need more appreciation and respect.
What’s your view on the food scene in Kuala Lumpur?
The post-Covid F&B scene in Kuala Lumpur is growing and much more diverse. Hopefully, we can attract more tourists to travel to Malaysia.
What practices do you currently implement or hope to implement to work towards social responsibility and sustainability in the future?
In our cafe, we encourage our staff to be creative and fun to give not-so-perfect ingredients a second chance instead of going into the garbage bin.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
I try to keep our menu interesting, and I would like to showcase many different locally-grown produce and different applications to our guests. As an event space, we have a monthly theme and focus. After One will be focused on Kids in Oct – launching a kids’ menu and hosting kids’ art workshop and kids yoga in our cafe.