Flash-grilled: Nick Yung

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Straits Kitchen head chef Nick Yung on his career to date and tackling bad attitudes in the workplace

Related tags Pan Pacific Hotel Restaurant Chef London Fine dining south east Asian cuisine

The head chef at Pan Pacific London’s flagship restaurant, Straits Kitchen, on starting out as a prep cook, tackling bad attitudes in the workplace, and his favourite fast food joint.

What was your first industry job? 
I was a prep cook in a seafood restaurant in Sabah, Malaysia. I was responsible for the preparation of ingredients and stations, portioning the fish and seafood for example as well as maintaining the kitchen was always clean and sanitized. I loved the buzz of the busy kitchen and just wanted to soak up as much knowledge and experience as I could at the time. I also loved exploring and experimenting with traditional Malaysian flavours.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do? 
I would be a stay-at-home husband and dad in order to spend more quality time with my family.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?​ 
I really admire Tony Khoo, a Singaporean chef who was just sixteen when he stepped into the culinary world. He has fantastic chef skills, is extremely technical but is so humble and has an amazing management style.  

What’s your pet hate in the kitchen? 
Before I was just starting out in the industry, the hospitality industry was more casual with less rules. I think having rules and high standards are really important in the kitchen. My pet hate it when people have bad attitudes or don’t like to follow a system which is in place for a reason. We definitely need rules to protect our kitchen and to make it a more positive workplace for everyone.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you? 
I once had a customer order egg fried rice without the egg... 

Sum up your cooking style in a single sentence? 
My signature style is a combination of traditional and modern cooking techniques focusing Malaysian and Cantonese flavours.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had? 
I wouldn’t say I’ve had a terrible review as such but I have had ​guests complain about the price point being too high compared to their home country in South East Asia for example. However, we like to take authentic and familiar South East Asian dishes and elevate and refine them with modern twists for the London market in a luxury restaurant and setting. 

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry? 
Work hard, be driven and learn from superior chefs and people who are great in the industry. Patience and diligence is all you need, skills, refinement and experience will follow.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without? 
A sharp kitchen knife.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal? 
Nasi lemak. It’s a delicious, fragrant dish and considered the national dish of Malaysia.

À la carte or tasting menu? 
Tasting menu.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had in a restaurant? 
Charcoal grilled Japanese wagyu fillet at Hakkasan.

What’s your favourite fast-food joint? 
McDonald’s. 

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of? 
This one is hard to choose just one dish - I would say I’ve eaten a lot of dishes from East Asian cuisine that I wish were my inventions.

MasterChef ​or Great British Menu​? 
MasterChef​. 

What’s the most overrated food? 
Italian food.

You’re restaurant dictator for a day- what would you ban? ​ 
Swearing and foul language.

Who would your dream dinner party guests be? 
My family, I love spending time with them.

What’s your earliest food memory? 
I remember eating seafood as a very young child and loving it. 

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