Chef credits Singapore stint for leading him to London's fine-dining spot Park Chinois

Park Chinois is a fine-dining Chinese restaurant with live entertainment in London.
Park Chinois is a fine-dining Chinese restaurant with live entertainment in London.PHOTOS: PARK CHINOIS
Chef Lee Che Liang is executive chef of Park Chinois.
Chef Lee Che Liang is executive chef of Park Chinois.PHOTOS: PARK CHINOIS

(THE NEW PAPER) - As the executive chef of Park Chinois, a fine-dining Chinese restaurant with live entertainment in London, Chef Lee Che Liang is cooking up a storm with his 65-strong kitchen crew.

It was his work experience in Singapore that opened doors and led the Malaysia-born culinary guru there.

There are a few dishes on his menu that are inspired by Singapore cuisine, like satay chicken.

He has been with Park Chinois - which pays homage to the opulence and decadence of 1930s Shanghai - since it opened in December 2015.

He just launched a new menu that celebrates the best of the summer's seasonal produce, with items such as Hand Picked Cornish Crab Meat and Prawn Wonton, and Poached Welsh Lamb Dumplings with Cumin and Chilli Sesame Dressing.

Growing up, he was no stranger to the food business.

When he was 10, his family ran a small restaurant serving classic Chinese dishes in his home town of Johor.

Chef Lee, 42, told The New Paper in an e-mail interview: "I was in there washing the dishes and serving guests. I worked in the restaurant out of necessity. It was a tough time.

 

"I didn't dream of being a chef and my parents tried to discourage me from doing it and get an education instead. But once I started in the industry, I fell in love with it. I also had an independent streak so I just wanted to do my own thing."

 

Over the years, chef Lee - whose mum is from Singapore - travelled between Malaysia and Singapore, working in kitchens in both countries.

In 2000, he moved to Singapore and ended up as a junior sous chef at the Ritz-Carlton, where he honed his skills.

He said: "The hotel was one of the finest in the region and I learnt so much about quality and service culture that is still crucial to me today."

It was also there that chef Lee met and befriended Mr Alan Yau, a celebrity restaurateur known for founding the Wagamama food chain in Britain. Mr Yau offered him the opportunity to move to London and join his Hakkasan Group and chef Lee went on to open Hakkasan restaurants all over the world.

He admitted struggling in his early days due to a clash of cultures.

Chef Lee said: "In Asia, there is a sharing culture. We simply share every dish and, as more people arrive, you put out more food so that there is more to go around. In London, every dish was plated and served as a separate course and that took me a while to get used to.

"(But) I believe when it comes to food, you just have to try and try again. There are only so many techniques and practices you can read about or watch. What is important is to practise, taste, practise some more and continue to refine your dish. It is not about working harder. It is about working smarter so your dishes and cooking get better all the time."

And, no, he is not obsessed with getting a Michelin star for Park Chinois.

He said: "I enjoy following the Michelin (guide) and seeing the changes to the listings. But for the team and me, we don't have a single focus on Michelin. We simply have a broader focus on doing well every day and producing top quality food. That is what drives us forward."