Naim Hasnan – Malaysian Head Chef & National Corporate Chef Malaysia
Malaysia-born Chef Naim Hasnan began his culinary journey in his mother’s kitchen. There he learned the basics that would shape his life. His inspirations come from his travels and all the new ingredients he has discovered through different cultures and culinary arts.
Today Chef Naim works as Head Chef at Southern Rock Seafood, is founder of Black Label Chefs Society and participates in the Gastronomy Association of Malaysia .
Naim Hasnan – Chef’s Portrait
You are a well-known and experienced Malaysian Head Chef. How did your career as a chef begin?
Well, my way was not easy, but good. I’ve fallen in love with the kitchen since I was a teenager, and I still love my mother’s kitchen. I’m from Malaysia and Malaysia is rich in heritage from various ethnic groups, traditions, and I love to immerse myself in this world. The Asian cuisine was never boring.
Why did you become a chef?
I’ve always loved cooking, Malay cuisine was my first field of inspiration and my love grows every time I discover a new taste in the kitchen.
Which culinary school did you attend?
The Quantum Food Academy Institute is my first stop after class with my mother. There I learned my cooking basic knowledge.
How would you best describe the cuisine of Malaysia?
Malaysian cuisine is a masterpiece designed by various Asian cuisines. The art that I would call DAPUR ART (kitchen art), and a sophisticated cuisine that stays so nostalgic, with fresh vegetables and powerful aroma, spices and herbs from Malaysia Sweet Home. The background is always a melting pot of multi-cultures.
Traditional Malaysian cuisine interpreted in a new / modern way: Do you have some examples?
Oh yes! Malaysia is growing day by day. It’s a new challenge, especially in the kitchen. In all other cultures that you find in Malaysia, you may find Nasi Lemak or Rendang in fine dining restaurants with luxurious service. It brings you back to an era between an old Malaysia and a modern Malaysia taste – which is fantastic.
How has the culinary scene in Malaysia changed in recent years?
The scene was changed as it changed from street food to stalls and restaurants. It gets a different shape that suits life in Malaysia nowadays.
Malaysia is a multinational country with people from Malaysia, China and India. These 3 kitchens are different. Are there any fusion dishes from these 3 different kitchens?
In Malaysia, there are different ethnic groups and cultures, which formed a wonderful fusion of harmonious dishes with different flavors and fragrances with the typical Asian ingredients like Laksa and many others.
What trends or new developments do you see in the culinary scene in Malaysia?
The food truck is a new trend that has recently conquered Malaysia with traditional and modern foods. The technology also has a role to play in the new Malaysia cuisine with various modern combi ovens, new utensils and contemporary food presentation. The chef cooks in an open kitchen, I think it’s an amazing scene as you can watch the food in the live kitchen. It’s like a live music show.
Today your work as National Corporate Chef Malaysia. What is this job about?
National Corporate Chef Malaysia is another culinary role in operations, the job has more entrepreneurial aspects of a food establishment in the context of Asian Malaysian cuisine.
You also work for the Gastronomy Association of Malaysia as Assistant to the Corporate Affair Chairman. What does the organization do?
The Gastronomy Association of Malaysia aims to get our Malaysian Chef establish and help them enrich culinary knowledge. The first Halal food classification in the world, as we intent to find a corporate sector to work together achieving our Malaysia cuisine Goal in the Islamic world and beyond.
The Gastronomy Association of Malaysia wants our Malaysian chefs to establish themselves and be encouraged to expand their culinary knowledge. It is also the world’s first halal food classification. We intend to find a corporate sector that works with us to achieve our Malaysian culinary goals in the Islamic world and beyond.
You are co-founder of Black Label Chefs Society. What is this organisation about?
I am the founder of Black Label Chefs Society, the association of chefs for networking, business and social issues. Black Label Chefs Society is a voice of chefs out of kitchen world.
As Head Chef of Southern Rock Seafood, what is your culinary set up? What’s your culinary setup as Head Chef at Southern Rock Seafood?
I’ve been Head Chef at Southern-Rock seafood Restaurant for years. My setup is to combine seafood with ingredients from Australia, Europe and Asia.
How would you describe your own culinary style today?
My style of cooking is modern Malaysian cuisine using local ingredients with Asian culinary inspiration.
Many chefs are looking for work experience in Asia. Is it hard for them to find work as a chef in Malaysia?
Yes, it is quite difficult to get a job as a foreigner. You have to be lucky enough to get a cooking job here in Malaysia.
What are some of your special cooking techniques?
Cooking in wok is my favorite technique, I also like to bake special bread and smoke meat, chicken, duck – and also different kinds of local fish.
Do you use lesser-known spices in your kitchen?
In fact, some Asian spices are less known to the world like Galangal Daun Selasih, Belancan, Budu and Tempoyak. A cook has to come to Malaysia and will realize that many spices are unknown in the culinary world, in cooking schools or in competitions.
And lesser-known vegetables?
Yes, for example Peria, Petai and Umbut Kelapa.
Can you share some of your latest recipes with us?
Yes, of course – smoked duck, Naim’s Laksa.
If you were to publish your own culinary book – what would it be about?
My book would be full of kitchen experiences during my journey and how far I see my profession goes. It is amazingly important for the new generations of chefs in Malaysia.
Is there a place in the world where you would like to work as a chef someday?
I would like to work in Hawaii. It’s my dream destination.
Many thanks, Chef Naim!
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