From school to stove

Sherson Lian is going places.

The Malaysian chef cooked through France and Scotland on cooking show Great Dinners Of The World, and now he explores the Philippines in Amazing Food Challenge: Fun In The Philippines.

The new reality cooking competition show features 10 contestants taking part in challenges around the country for a chance to win US$50,000 (S$62,430) worth of prizes.

It premieres tonight at 9pm on Asian Food Channel (StarHub Ch 435).

Getting behind the stove, said Lian, was the best decision he's ever made. The 29-year-old "jumped straight into the food industry" after high school.

Lian, who's also a restaurateur, told M that he learnt how to cook in his mother's cafe. He had never attended culinary school but picked up the trade through the "institute of hard knocks".

The chef, who is of English-Chinese parentage, shares his best memories while filming in the Philippines.

Talent spotting

We could identify right from the first challenge those who were really passionate about food and those with prior cooking experience. It was also easy to tell those who were just there for an adventure.

Filipino cuisine

This was my first time visiting the Philippines, and it was great to be able to travel to the different regions and learn about the cuisine.

I noticed a lot of similarities between Filipino and Malaysian cuisines. Filipino food is prepared with a lot of love and it's full of soul, a real comfort food. They also prefer bold flavours and use a lot of spices and herbs.

I got a lot of ideas on how I can incorporate certain local Malaysian ingredients and give them a Filipino twist.

Best food memory

It would probably be the time when I was filming Great Dinners Of The World with fellow chefs Johnny Fua, Malcolm Goh and Sho Naganuma.

We were about two weeks into the shoot and were craving Chinese food. We found this Chinese restaurant in Paris and when the first dish - a hot and sour soup - arrived, we just drank the soup in silence.

It was so good! That was a meal I'll never forget.

To aspiring chefs

Work hard and play hard. Working hard gets you places, playing hard keeps you motivated to return to work.

As a chef, you never really graduate because it's a lifelong learning process. Even when you become a renowned chef, you still wouldn't have known everything there is to know about food.

You also need to be a team player in the kitchen. One thing I always tell my team is that we are a family, so you must always be reliable, loyal and humble in order to gain respect from others.

Anyone can cook

Yes! Especially now with so many cooking shows available, cooking is made really simple. All it takes is a little loving and a good palate.

This article was published on April 16 in The New Paper.

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