Interview with Chef David King

It’s my favourite day of the week! Happy #followfriday readers! Here is the spin off from Blogger in the Spotlight (BITS) … Chef in the Spotlight – Chef D. King, for your reading pleasure.

Chef David King, Director - Kitchens of The Westin KL (2)-1

1.What got you started?

“I was working weekend nights as a kitchen steward, one day the garde manger chef didn’t turn up and they threw me into the section for service, and I guess I had some flair.. things progressed from there as I didn’t want to be institutionalized by going to Uni, I liked the alternative lifestyle of a chef and the outlet for creativity.”

2.Tell us something about yourself that NO ONE knows?
I am part of the Hindu Buddhist dharma society in Bali, thereby an honorary Balinese – my Balinese name is “I Ketut Suryawan” which means “man of the sun”.

3. How do you de-stress?
Just being with my family, my wife and 2 young daughters releases my stress straight away, they make me laugh, and bring me the greatest joy. Laughter is the medicine which heals all.

4. Do you have any hobbies?
Traveling. It broadens the mind & reveals the excitement of different cultures. Also riding my BMW GS1200 Adventure  and finally Rugby, the game they play in heaven!

5. What brought you to Malaysia?
I was working in Seoul at the time and desperately wanted to go back to SE Asia. KL is the quintessential south east asian experience and I wanted to try living here and in particular work at the The Westin KL.

6. Who is your favourite Cook/Chef and why?
I have a few. I’ve had the privilege of working with a number of great chefs, I guess they are my favourites because they have touched me and contributed to who I am. Ultimately you are a product of your experiences and there is no point idolizing others simply for their name and/or reputation.

Neil Perry – such a great guy and supporter of those who are passionate as he is. I like the way he makes dishes work.

Alice Waters – because of her unwavering convictions and commitments and for basically inspiring a whole new style of modern Mediterranean food and for the importance of produce from the ground to the plate.

David Thompson – a great friend, for the importance of sound, theoretical base in food.

Michel Roux –  for instilling the fact that there is a lifetime of achievements that one must aspire to.

(To name a few!)

Ocean Trout Affumicato, Burrata, Pomodori Affumicati, Allioli dell Basilico 2

7. What is your favourite travel destination for food?

If I had to single out any one place, it would be Bangkok. Bangkok is amazing for the huge repertoire and dynamic flavours that Thai food has. Another one of the most enjoyable locations is definitely Tokyo for the singular purity of the ingredients and the dishes. Italy is mind blowing and in the context of regionality there is no better. Kuala Lumpur is pretty damn good for such uniqueness and diversity in one spot!

8. If you could live one place in this world where would it be and why?

I’ve never been happier than immersed in complete jungle overlooking stepped rice paddy’s as in Bali, simply because of the serenity I’ve found there. It gives my heart peace.

9. Can you name a cook book that has inspired you?

Tetsuya’s. Beautiful food done beautifully! The cuisine is simple and straightforward but reliant on superb produce and cooking technique.

10. What was your biggest catastrophe in the kitchen?

Opening a restaurant with construction just completed 1 hour before a full house on opening night. Getting the kitchen and restaurant ready was a nightmare.

11. Do you have any advice for budding cooks/aspiring chefs?

Be fully committed and live this profession with all the passion that you can breathe into it. I always say it is not a job, it is a labor of love. God is in the details they say and no more so than with this profession. Dtretch yourself, stretch your boundaries. Take the risk to go where you have never been before and then push yourself to go just that wee bit further. This is what ultimately makes a great chef.

“Never ever settle for mediocrity – being mediocre is the death of a chef.”

12. What is your favourite recipe and why?

Ive just put a new dish on at Prego and it is so simple, yet so supremely satisfying, it is the absolute perfect marriage of flavours and the blending of just two of the best products on the market today. I say simple yet the deception is in presenting these ingredients.

“Ocean Trout Affumicato, Burrata, Olio dell’erba d Peperoncino” – “Woodbridge Smoked Tasmanian Ocean Trout, Puglia – Style Cream Curd filled Mozzarella Cheese, Chili Herb Oil,”

The burrata is so fresh we import it directly from Italy with a shelf life of only 4-6 days, the flavour and texture is so pure yet decadent in its richness. This outstanding smoked ocean trout from woodbridge is the perfect foil and counterbalance to the cheese – we simply tie it all together with a lovely herb chili oil made with the blending of fresh rosemary, thyme, garlic, black olives, 3 different chillies, parsley, pepper and salt and extra virgin olive oil.

So there it is.  Only 3 elements on the plate (along with some grilled country bread) and honestly it doesn’t make economical sense to put it on the menu due to the pricy ingredients, but it sure makes a statement! You can give me this as a last meal on earth and I will go with a huge smile on my face:)

13. Do you think that the old “use it or lose it” axiom holds true for cooking?

No I don’t think so. More like you’ve either got it or you don’t !

14.When it comes down to technical skill vs. putting your heart into your cooking, which do you think is most vital to producing good food, and why?

Whilst passion is far more important and technique can be learnt, you have to make the most out of every opportunity, you have to work extremely hard and push for the best opportunities to get the best training you can, because there is a limit to the amount of time you have at hand to be able to learn and master different skills and techniques. The difference in what you can learn in a 5-star, or a Michelin star establishment as opposed to the more middle market, in terms of technique, is absolutely world’s apart and this will shape your future as a chef.

15. Do you think that there is a correlation between the instability of the economy and the uncertainty of the future, in the growing interest in gourmet food – that people find it comforting?

I think food is always very important to people and inherent to their culture no matter the circumstance – what varies is the limitations of that exploration – be it financial or emotional.

16. Do u think fine-dining restaurants has raised people’s standards as a whole of what they will and will not eat?

I don’t think fine dining exists anymore. Now there are simply different levels of dining. You see, a café can be equally as fine as a hotel venue for example. It’s just that they differ in concept and format. In that sense, yes I think the dining public are becoming more and more educated through the exposure of the different experiences that are available to them. Its more modern to be in control of your personal environment and that means being more knowledgeable. Especially in Asia, diners are educating themselves all the time about wines and so on. People are getting a real kick out of knowing the differences of grades and marbling of beef, as an example.

Getting back to the question of fine dining – yes I think it is very important that we have great restaurants in pursuit of excellence in order to give the public benchmarks.

17. Has it affected the restaurant industry?

Well when expectations are higher then operators have to deliver more or deliver the right thing. The right thing in terms of meeting the guests level of expectations – the right service, the right level of expertise of the kitchen, the right produce utilized .. oh, but all for the right price!

About Chef David King:

Chef David King is Westin Kuala Lumpur’s Director of Kitchens. He oversees the overall kitchen operations and menu engineering of the six restaurants of the hotel to redefine the concept of dining in Malaysia today. Prior to this, King was the Director of Cuisine of W Seoul-Walkerhill, one of the “world’s foremost hotel brand” in Asia. He spearheaded the team in all the hotel’s restaurants – Namu, Kitchen and Tonic..but hey, if you really want to know more about him, go to Westin KL and ask for the cool dude in the leather jacket, on the super-bike, who is larger than life. OK.., so he doesn’t wear his leather jacket to the kitchen.., but he is still cool;)


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