A cuisine that is hard to beat

A cuisine that is hard to beat

Who: Brian Wong, 31, Chinese sous chef at The Scholar Chinese Restaurant, The National University of Singapore Society's Kent Ridge Guild House

Chinese sous chef Brian Wong admits that a Chinese restaurant kitchen, with its large fires for wok-frying, whirling exhausts and blowers to suck out smoky fumes, and hot kilns for roasting meats, may not the most glamorous or enticing of jobs.

But the chef, who has been cooking in Chinese restaurant kitchens for 11 years, says he does not mind it one bit. In fact, he hopes to pursue a career in Chinese cuisine and one day start his own chef consultancy business.

The Johor Baru-born chef, who is a Singapore permanent resident, says: "Sure, the kitchen is hot, but if you have the passion and if you love what you do, you don't feel the heat."

He says he knew from a very young age that he wanted to be a Chinese cuisine chef. His childhood ambition was partly influenced by his father, Mr Wong Fatt Shin, 62, who is a chef too and owns Lido Beach Seafood Restaurant in Johor Baru. His Singaporean mother is a housewife.

The younger Wong, who is married to a Singaporean assistant catering sales manager, grew up helping out in the restaurant when he was about 10. He would wait and clear tables, wash the dishes and do basic food preparation such as cleaning fish and trimming and washing prawns. Unlike many other children, he did not see it as a chore, but found the work fascinating.

When he was older, he learnt cooking techniques from his father and worked at the restaurant for four years before moving to Singapore seven years ago.

While he opts for Western, Japanese, Spanish and Indonesian cuisine when dining out, he prefers to cook Chinese food because it is "closer to my roots".

He says: "People are attracted to Western cuisine because the chefs are seen as superstars and celebrities. Perhaps when Chinese chefs become more popular, more people will be attracted to enter the trade.

"Besides, there are a lot of different cooking techniques and methods in Chinese cooking too."

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