Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Accidental Chef

The accidental chef

Cheong Liew has fond memories of growing up here but he doesn’t miss the life he has left behind, as many in his family are also in Australia. But he certainly misses Malaysian food.

Cheong with his daughter Eugenia.His book My Food, co-authored with Elizabeth Ho, is filled with his groundbreaking recipes and anecdotes. It gives a romantic account of his growing-up years, learning the ropes in “Grandma’s kitchen”, his journey to Adelaide and how he made a name for himself as a self-taught chef.

In 1969, Liew ventured to Melbourne to study electrical engineering. After a while, feeling lonely and homesick, he visited his brother who was studying in Adelaide and found the laid-back city and the people there “incredibly friendly”. Like many Malaysians who dream of Utopia, he eventually settled there.

“Adelaide is still nice and peaceful and is about same size as KL back in the 1970s. But now KL is six to seven times bigger but Adelaide hasn’t increased in size,” says Liew.

As a student trying to earn extra money, Liew worked in various pubs, railway cafés and restaurants in Melbourne and Adelaide that served everything from Greek, Italian and French, to Indian, Chinese and South-East Asian food. Besides learning from the various cooks, Liew also pored over cookbooks.

Australia in the mid-1970s was the right place and the right time for the budding chef and his ideas of combining Asian spices with Australian produce.

In 1975, he took over a restaurant called Neddy’s – dubbed a “natural Australian restaurant” – which, under his stewardship, promoted a multicultural attitude towards food. The restaurant that “Adelaide had been waiting for” dished up “Greek, Indian, Chinese, Malay and other dishes” to great successs.

But after 10 years, Liew gave up the restaurant business to teach at the Regency Hotel School in order to work regular hours and have a regular family life. He has four grown children now.

The shoplot in Unley — Pictures by JOHNNI WONGAfter seven years of teaching and learning about organisation and communication, Liew returned to the kitchen but this time as executive chef of The Grange restaurant at Hilton Adelaide. Currently, two of his daughters work with him at The Grange.

These days, when he is not overseeing the chefs at The Grange, Liew spends his time contributing ideas to the Australian media or sampling the culinary gems of other chefs who have also made Adelaide their home.

And why is Liew considered such an influential chef in Australia?
His current RM445 (A$159) Migration of Ideas: Sensory experience eight-course degustation menu at Hilton Adelaide includes his famous The Four Dances of the Sea starter comprising soused snook, raw calamari with squid ink noodles, octopus aioli and spiced prawn sushi.

Apparently, Liew’s starter has been declared by The Sydney Morning Herald as an Australian “natural treasure”. The Japanese-style snook, Aussie/Asian-style raw squid, Greek-style octopus and Malay spiced prawn offer multiculturalism on a plate. – By Johnni Wong

News Source : STAR

No comments:




Related Posts with Thumbnails