Wong Chi-fai is Executive Chef at 3-Michelin-starred T’ang Court at luxury hotel The Langham, Hong Kong
Chef Wong has more than 20 years of experience in cooking traditional Cantonese cuisine, and, impressively, won the highest Gold with Distinction Awards for two consecutive years, in 2001 and 2002, in Hong Kong’s Best of the Best Culinary Awards.
We speak to Chef Wong about running such a lauded restaurant and the state of Cantonese cooking in Hong Kong today.
You head a three-Michelin-starred restaurant – what would you say is the secret to a great kitchen/ restaurant?
The key is to serve the best dishes to guests. It might sound simple, but implementing it requires the coordination of various aspects, especially the training of culinary talents, as well as guiding the whole kitchen team to be on the same page, follow the most stringent standards and share the same vision.
How do you handle the pressure of three stars?
My family is backing me up at all time. Sharing quality time and playing with my little son always helps to relieve my stress at work.
Can you give us some background information on your training and experience? When did you join T’ang Court?
I joined T’ang Court in 2000 and worked under our Chinese Master Chef Kwong Wai-keung. Chef Kwong’s cooking philosophy was one of the best and toughest in the industry in Hong Kong. Maintaining food quality at the highest level at all times puts great pressure on the team. There is no specific formula for cooking Cantonese cuisine, but purely based on experience and continuous trial and error. It was important to observe Chef Kwong’s cooking procedures closely and understand the rationale behind them, in order to equip ourselves with the knowledge of creating the best dishes.
You’ve been cooking for 20 years – have you seen Cantonese food change over the years? Do you think there is a need to preserve traditional Cantonese cuisine?
It is important to preserve traditional Cantonese cooking techniques as this is the soul of Cantonese cuisine.
Cantonese cuisine has certainly been changing and evolving over the years. Nowadays there are abundant new ingredients imported from overseas. It is interesting to explore how the new ingredients match traditional Cantonese cooking techniques so we can create new, special dishes.
When cooking very classic dishes, what makes the difference between a good dish and a great dish?
Cantonese cuisine is founded on a long heritage and history. A good dish is something that gives exceptional flavours, but a great dish is a culinary creation that best combines traditional cooking techniques and the selected ingredients that showcase the innate flavours at their best.
What’s your philosophy on ingredients? Where do you source your fresh produce for T’ang Court?
We are very lucky to be in Hong Kong as there is an abundance of fresh ingredients from all over the world available. Cantonese cuisine emphasises the use of fresh and seasonal produces, so I always like to walk around different markets and search for different ingredients.
What and where do you like to eat when you’re not working?
The Cantonese cuisine chefs in Hong Kong form a strong community and are closely connected. It is kind of a tradition for the chefs to come together for late supper at night after work. We like to gather together, chat, and enjoy dining at some small local restaurants.
Thank you, Chef Wong, and we wish you continuing success with T’ang Court. Read here his new recipe.
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