Johnson Wong – Chef Patron at gēn 根 about Malay cuisine
Johnson Wong is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Sydney. After completing his studies he has been on a journey full of cooking experiences in the kitchens of some great restaurants in some countries around the world. Today Johnson Wong works as Chef Patron at gēn 根.
Hi Johnson, today you are Chef Patron at gēn 根, with different international and Michelin Star kitchen experiences. Where and when did your journey as a chef begin? What drove you to become a chef?
To be honest, I do not know, but I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I was not a cook in one day.
You have done your culinary studies at Le Cordon Bleu Sydney. How did that time shape you the most?
It drove me to a starting point for the beginning of my career in kitchen.
Years of crazy adventures brought you to the point where the gēn 根 was born. What is the culinary line/concept behind?
Frankly speaking what we are doing at gēn 根 is very different than what I did before but this is the time I would like to express the loves to our local producers in a different platform.
How often do you change your menus?
In Denmark you worked at the famous restaurant NOMA. As an Asian chef – what did fascinate you most at the Nordic cuisine?
Finding out the nature of the ingredients and also different possibilities of that. Even now I have implemented a lot of the philosophy I have seen in Denmark to the Malaysian ingredients and my cuisine.
Where do you get your inspirations for new dishes from?
My childhood, my team, Malaysia cultures and, of course, the local farmers we are working with.
After your time as chef in France, you returned to Malaysia as Executive Chef at the Macalister Mansion, Penang. Back in Asia with so much different international experiences, did you feel like a fusion chef?
Yes, at the beginning. But who I am now is just a Malaysian chef. This is why I opened gēn 根 and the point where the gēn 根 was born.
“They actually give me lot of ideas and motivations for my creations.” – Johnson Wong about his relation to local producers
What are some dishes which reflects your local ingredients experiences best?
We have a Black Chicken and Bario Rice dish which i think is one of the best dish we had to present the nature and simplicity of the local Malaysian ingredients.
Malaysian is rich in natural, flavours and Malay, Indian and Chinese influences. How would you describe the modern Malay kitchen best?
First of all is understanding about the ingredients and different cultures of Malaysia as the ingredients different races using for cooking are different as well. Also not to just putting yourself in a picture of deconstruct or restructure certain local dishes but also finding your own and new ways to use from the local Malaysian ingredients.
Fresh ingredients are the key, and in Malaysia you have lots of local producers. Do you have a close relation to your producers?
Yes, we do. We have our close relation farmers to provide us the fresh herbs, free range egg and chicken. Also fisherman bringing us the fresh and different fishes for us. They actually give me lot of ideas and motivations for my creations.
What are your favourite and less favourite ingredients?
I like all local ingredients and finding out their possibilities.
How would you describe your own culinary line today?
Trying to present local Malaysian ingredients at its best and flavours in my own way.
Where does you get your inspirations for new dishes from?
Too many, maybe. My cultures, my team, my farmers, the ingredients itself and also the every single things i am seeing for my life everyday!
Remembering my time in Malaysia; the fresh fish with some “secret spicy sauce” was unbelievable and unbeatable. Do you have as well some of this “secret spicy sauce”?
We don’t really have the secret recipe or many recipes in our restaurant, mostly the recipes are very basic recipes because we always get to know and come out the individual recipe when we have the ingredients.
Can you share some of you latest creations with us?
- Prawn | Fermented Mango | Dried Shrimp | Local herbs | Lotus Root
- Black Chicken | Duck liver | Bario Rice | Onion | Gojiberry Broth
- Pork | Green Dragon | Garlic | Pork Blood Jus.
Thank you very much, Johnson!