The restaurant scene in Kuala Lumpur is in constant change. New trends keep coming. We talked to Jeff Ramsey, who gives us a very good impression.

 

Interview with Jeff Ramsey

By Monica Tindall

 

You came from a city with a wealth of restaurants with multiple Michelin stars and international accolades to Kuala Lumpur, which is still developing in that area. What do you see as the pros and cons of that move?

Kuala Lumpur has no Michelin Guide, yet restaurants of every category and culture.  The combination of high quality ingredients and a crowd literally hungry for fine food made it a very easy choice.  It’s also a great incubator of ideas, we are able to evolve our concept here without as much media criticism and develop it until its ready for the world, meaning we do plan to export it.

 

Were there any surprises for you on the restaurant scene when you moved to KL?

I knew coming in, that there would be challenges, any pioneer can attest to that.  There are so many surprises here that I don’t react when I am surprised anymore.  I once asked a staff member if he had madeira wine, and he ended up cooking me some Madhura curry.  I laughed so hard, but still couldn’t get the madeira in the end.

 

You have had a wealth of international experience. How do you compare work abroad with work life in Malaysia?

Somehow it’s been the most challenging place I’ve ever operated a restaurant.  I think it’s because our food is always a bit different.

 

You introduced a unique dining concept to Kuala Lumpur – Babe, Japas fun dining. How has the response been to this type of dining?

People here can be very trendy, so it’s always been our mindset to keep changing the menu over and over to keep things new.  We change our tasting menu every three months to be in line with the Japanese seasons.

 

Besides, your restaurant, Babe, you also consult on a variety of projects. In what areas do restaurants need the most help?

To be successful, every restaurant needs a strong core team.  These are the people who will carry the restaurant through the tough times and bring the energy to lift it into being a success.

 

What’s your preference? Local or imported ingredients? Why? 

I love using local ingredients, however my guests prefer imported!

 

 

What’s your favourite Malaysian ingredient?

I love the torch ginger flower. It has a very pungent and sharp flowery aroma. Using just a sliver of it is pronounced in a dish and if you bite in to it, it can have an “eating soap” sort of impact.  But once you get used to it and use it sparingly, it’s very beautiful and unique.

 

What’s your view on the restaurant scene in Kuala Lumpur? Where do you think the industry is headed?

Just today, our friend, chef Darren Teoh, was just named part of Asia’s 50 best restaurants, becoming the first restaurant in Malaysia to make the list.  I think we are headed in the right direction, however, knowledge of fine dining is quite limited still.

 

What is one of the most valuable things you learned in your international kitchen experience? 

People’s taste preferences are directly correlated to how close or how far they live to the equator. The more north, the saltier and sour, the closer to the equatorial zones, the more people appreciate sweet, pungent and stronger flavours.

 

What do you think Malaysia has to contribute to the culinary world?

What Malaysia can be in the future will be completely unique if they tap in to the indigenous produce that is found nowhere else on the planet.

 

What advice would you like to share with up and coming chefs?

If you want it, you need to keep going.  It’s a long, arduous journey, only those who commit fully will reach their potential, even then it will take a lot more time than you think.

 

What is a match made in heaven for you?

Fish and vinegared rice!

 

If you could dine on anything anywhere with anyone, what would you eat and where would you dine and who would it be with?

 

My wife, family and my closest friends on an island cottage somewhere exotic with amazing ingredients and we all cook for each other.

 

What is your plan for your future as a chef?
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