MY SIGNATURE DISH – Ken Hom

Ken Hom, who resides in France and in Thailand but travels tirelessly all over the world, continues to
appear regularly as a celebrity chef, write new books and keep an involvement with restaurants worldwide.

In 2009 he was awarded with an honorary OBE for ‘services to culinary arts’, recognising his achievements and the impressive social and historical impact he made on the way the nation has ‘adopted’ Chinese cuisine, which has now become one of the nation’s favourites.

To tie in with our global cuisine focused Melting Pot feature over on pages 36-38, we sat down with Ken to find out more
about his own experience with bringing global cuisine to life over the years.

What do you love most about your job?
I am always learning something new, either from chef colleagues, home cooks or just from reading. I am always inspired to be creative by eating dishes cooked by others. I have been cooking for over 60 years and I am still learning all the time. Even though I have cooked some dishes hundreds of times, I learn something new or different each time. This makes my job so exciting.

How have global flavours and cuisines influenced the dishes you create?
I wrote my first book on the mixing of Asian and Western flavours as I have always been open to other flavours which has informed
my professional and personal cooking. I called it East Meets West which later was branded as fusion cooking. Living in Thailand has infused my cooking with Thai flavours, the same in France where I love cooking traditional French dishes with an Asian touch. I am also a lover of Italian cuisine and certainly have been influenced by Italian flavour. I love travelling as I discover new cultures, their food and flavours. Magic.

How important has knowledge of global cuisine been to your work?
Extremely. I find myself constantly learning about new flavours and tastes which keeps my work quite exciting. I go crazy when I stumble upon new spices, combinations or ways of cooking I never knew existed.

What was the best advice you have been given as a chef?
Be open to all flavours, don’t close yourself off. There is no best cuisine, they are all good. It is important to learn techniques
as well, as they are universal and learn to rely instinctively on your taste buds, they are your best guide.

You have worked as a consultant chef for restaurants around the world, do they all suffer from similar challenges?
Yes, universal goals of how to satisfy your customers without being pretentious, but most of all to give them… good food made with love.

Which three global restaurants would you recommend our readers look to for inspiration and why?
1. A. Wong in London because Chef Andrew Wong is showing a modern way to cook Chinese food

2. Alain Ducasse in Paris and Monaco in France, a pioneer in French food, bringing it into the 21st century

3. Osteria Francescana – Massimo Bottura – Modena, Italy. A true inspiration for one of the world’s most popular cuisines!

How do you see the global cuisine trend evolving in 2021 and beyond?
A continuation of the globalisation of food with chefs from around the world interacting and exchanging ideas and flavours. 

What has been your proudest professional moment?
When I cooked for the Chinese President on his first visit to the UK at No. 10 Downing Street, because it hit the front pages of all the Chinese newspapers in the world and made my mum proud.

What is your Signature Dish, and why?

It has to be Cantonese Pressed Duck. This Cantonese speciality is said to have originated in northern China and brought south during the Ming Dynasty when the Manchu invaded China and the Emperor and his court fled south.  In traditional methods, a boned duckwas literally flattened and cured with various spices before cooking.

Much of the work here is in the preparation which why I love it.  It is braised, then boned, steamed and finally fried.  The result is an unusual and delicious duck, unlike any you have ever had. 

Ken’s top tips

1. Keep it simple
2. Cook what you like to eat
3. Don’t reinvent the wheel