Flash-grilled: Amy Poon

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with chef and restaurateur Amy Poon

Related tags Amy Poon Chinese cuisine Poon's Wontoneria Chef

The chef and restaurateur, who is currently running a three-month residency at Carousel under her Wontoneria brand, on working in her father's restaurant, her mother's influence, and her signature dish.

What was your first industry job?
Coat check girl at Poon’s of Covent Garden when I was about 11. It wasn’t a real job but I wanted to be at the restaurant late because it seemed fun and glamorous and because I would see my parents. I sat in the cloak room with a book, hanging up furs and umbrellas and giving out tickets.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
Something else creative, collaborative or escapist – making things; writing; bringing people together to make things; adventures on a horse.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why? 
Not an industry figure anymore, but my mother. What she did in the 70’s and 80’s in creating Poon’s and helming this ship that really changed the way people experienced Chinese food was quite extraordinary.

What’s your pet hate in the kitchen?
slovenliness – not just in the kitchen

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
"Are you wearing Louboutins?"

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence…
Chinese home cooking.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
We’ve never really been open for long enough anywhere to be reviewed.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
Talk to everyone, hone your craft, be flexible, be adaptable and finally you can change your mind.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
Wooden chopsticks.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Claypot rice with Poon’s wind-dried meats.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant?
There have been so many but probably a meal I had with my father and the late Willy Mak at the Shun Tak Association in Hong Kong. We ate dishes that no-one cooks anymore and of course because I was with my father and Uncle Willy, they rolled out the red carpet…

What’s your favourite fast food joint?
I don’t have one but I do love a proper greasy spoon.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Almost everything Helen Goh bakes – I can’t bake so don’t have the culinary vocab to create in this area.

MasterChef or Great British Menu?
Haven’t watched Great British Menu, so MasterChef.

What’s the most overrated food?
Macaroni cheese.

You’re restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Bad manners.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be?
Tried and tested – my friends who are all brilliant and clever and witty and funny and kind and full of love . I don’t have fantasy guests. It’s hard enough to find the time to have dinner with the people I love.

What’s your earliest food memory? 
So many food memories but maybe my father making me Zabaglione in an Italian restaurant when the chef had left.

Twitter or Instagram?
Instagram, though I have a love/hate relationship with it

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
Not getting straight As at GCSE.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
In the shower – literally but otherwise, to a snowy mountain.

What’s your tipple of choice?
I don’t drink anymore but if I did it would be Austrian or German riesling or a piña colada.

What’s your favourite food and drink pairing? 
Sauternes and Poon’s wind-dried duck liver sausages.

What do you consider to be your signature dish?
Wontons!

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