How does travel inspire you and your work?
Very much. For me, it’s about the senses – seeing things, touching it, feeling it, smelling it, and tasting it. Ever since I was a kid, I learned and loved using my senses. I call it my own superpower.
So when I travel, I wake up early in the morning, go to the market, look at people – how and what they eat, what they grow, and how much they grow. These things reflect the culture of a place, and that’s what inspires my cooking. I think it’s important to learn from old things, and make something new and different out of it.
What’s your favorite country in Asia and why?
Definitely China. It’s so big and there are so many different ways of cooking. They have country cooking, classic cooking, people’s cooking – there are so many things to learn. China is a really huge source of inspiration for me.
What’s your favorite part of being a judge at MasterChef Asia?
Helping people succeed and realize their dreams. I love that I am able to share my love for food, and to teach, and mentor the contestants.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring chefs?
Get a helper and don’t cut yourself. Also, get a very sharp knife (laughs). Always invite your families and cook dinner for them. Share the love on the table. I think that’s a great place to start.
Name three ingredients that are a must for any kitchen, whether at home or at a restaurant.
First, is a very good stock. With that you can make soups and stews, congee, risotto, Chinese noodles, and many other dishes. It’s very handy to have.
Next thing is ginger. It’s very versatile. You can cook with it, you can make cocktails with it. When you’re sick you can even make tea with it. It has cleansing properties too. You can boil it with ginseng, and it will make your house smell really great.
Third is definitely salt.
MasterChef Asia airs every Thursday at 9pm (SIN/HK) on Lifetime.
This article originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Smile magazine.