04 June 2018
Meet Chef Lee
I’ve been around food since I was ten years old as my family had a small restaurant in Johor, Malaysia. I was in the restaurant washing dishes, doing the prep work and serving guests from about ten years old. When I was 12 I left home and moved to Singapore to work in restaurants. I was young but we needed the money and I didn’t have any formal education; my school, my whole education has been in kitchens.
I know it seems strange to think that a child would be working, full-time, from such a young age but at that time in the country’s history, that was just what you did when you were from a poorer background.
I learned everything I know from doing it on the job. I read cookery books and take inspiration from all over the world but for me, the best way to learn is to play and experiment and then try and try again until you perfect a dish. That’s my ethos, keep working, keep getting better every single day and be passionate about what you do!
“The best way to learn is to play and experiment and then try and try again until you perfect a dish.”
It wasn’t until I was 16 years old that I actually fell in love with cooking, before that it was just a way to earn money but from 16 onwards I started getting into cookery competitions and that really ignited my passion for cookery. When I was 17 I represented my country and at 18 years old, I was Head Chef at a fine dining restaurant, The Dragon Inn, in Malaysia.
I’d say that it wasn’t until I was 21 that I really mastered my profession. I was at the five-star Ritz Carlton in Singapore and I learned incredible amounts about quality, service, and hospitality.
Every day my team and I come into our kitchen and in many ways, it can be repetitive ensuring that each dish is consistent and perfect. We have to be passionate about our work so that we can ensure that level of perfection, each and every time. Park Chinois is fine dining Chinese cuisine but it is based on techniques from all over the world. For instance, we have ‘The Park Carbonara’ on the menu, the dish is Italian in its inspiration but it’s created using the finest Chinese ingredients, Inaniwa udon, sea urchin and an organic egg cooked perfectly at 65 degrees.
We take a similar approach with our Dim Sum; they have this really long history within Chinese cooking and mean “from the heart”. Dim Sum is delicate so we treat them with respect and use the best of seasonal ingredients to create something that is from our heart, so that we’re respecting their place in culinary history.
People ask me all the time what it is like being a chef and what is the best way to learn and the reality is, you just have to go cook, cook and cook some more. There is only so much you can learn from a book; what’s important is experimenting and practising and mastering your craft by doing the hard graft. For me it is important to work hard in my kitchen, I’ve got a big team now and I could just stand back but in order to get the respect from my peers, I want to work hard alongside them.