This week’s Chef in the Spotlight is Chef Edwin Yau of Shuraku and Daikanyama in Kuala Lumpur. He tutored under Master Chef Yoshio Nogawa of Sushi Kaiseki Nogawa Restaurant, a pioneering Japanese restaurant in Singapore, where he honed his skills as a chef. He worked his way up to Master Chef, and his passion for the culinary arts and his desire to gain more knowledge and experience has taken him to the best kitchens in Hong Kong, Vienna and Tokyo. We know Edwin personally and find him a laid-back and amicable fellow. His passion for Japanese Fusion has inspired us to talk to him and find out what makes him tick.
1. Was yours a conscious decision to become a chef or did you find you just stumbled into it?
I never planned to be a chef but my love for food and Japanese culture lead me to where I am today.
2. Who influenced your cooking in the early part of your life? Who influenced your cooking in the later part of your life?
In the earlier part of my life my mom basically influenced me the most. Coming from a big family, meal preparations tend to take a bit more time and being the youngest, it was just natural for me to help my mom out in the kitchen. As I grew up and started working in the kitchen, my ex boss; Master Chef Yoshio Nogawa greatly inspired me. His ability to control all aspects of running a restaurant whilst at the same time garnering the respect of staff and customers is what I look up to the most. Plus, he just looks cool!!
3. Your cooking has been referred to as ‘new style’ Japanese, or fusion. What are the trademarks of your cooking that have led to this?
Its basically through being bored of traditional ways of cooking and the fact that in Malaysia, ingredients for Japanese food used to be very expensive. Mix and matching really changed this up and reduced the cost of expensive food.
4. Do you find it a challenge to constantly innovate?
Not at all. I have plenty of cool ideas! It’s whether or not the customers can “accept” them.
5. What difficulties have you previously encountered in having several restaurants around KL?
The most difficult issues that tend to come up repeatedly involve staff. Malaysians staff seem to always be in a rush, chasing after very big dreams … it’s difficult to keep them and train them up… The other part is basically we Malaysians are just too spoilt for choice by the abundance and variety of good food available. People get fed-up quickly and look for the next new thing.
6. Why have you downsized your repertoire of restaurants under your brand name?
After having experienced so much through the many outlets, I think it’s about time I settled down and concentrate a bit more. Shuraku and Daikanyama provide the balance I need at this point in time.
7. Please tell us what your plans for Daikanyama and Shuraku are?
Well, I’d like to make both outlets more interesting. Beyond creating new and interesting food and drinks, I want to enhance the dining experience. It’s more than just the food; it’s about the surrounding, music and of course service.
8. Of all the countries in which you have visited, which cuisine do you find the most exciting?
That’s easy, JAPAN.
10. What are your hobbies?
I like to collect toys and books. I like furniture too, but don’t have the space to collect them ……
11. Do you like sports? If not what is your passion?
Yeah I like it…. The best thing is that it’s another way of spending time with friends
12. Is it difficult to juggle work and private life?
It’s all about balance.
13. Back in the day, when you got married, did you think it would distract you from being a Chef or running your business?
Not at all. Well, it was a bit difficult to give equal attention to all parties at first, but now I think I’ve got the hang of it! Of course when you are launching a new restaurant, that takes priority but to be fair, you should balance that with paying back the time and effort into your family after things get off the ground!
14. Where do you source for your other elements/produce in the fusion dishes?
With Japanese food there are a lot of ingredients that are not produced here. It used to be that these products can only be sourced from Japan. But now these same items are supplied from other countries like fishes for sashimi now come from China, or beef from Australia. This has made it a lot more affordable.
15. What countries have you lived in or traveled to? Where do you feel most at home these days, or which is your favourite country to live in and why?
I have been lucky enough to travel to many countries. My career gave me an opportunities to live in Singapore, Hong Kong , Australia and Japan. After travelling around, my favourite countries are Australia and Malaysia. Australia is like a dream country, high living standards, good quality ingredients, good transportation…. And Malaysia…..Well….. It’s home!
16. What advice would you give home chefs who are inspired by your style of cookery?
Experiment and try to create new tastes. Also, play around with colourful food elements to enhance the presentation. It’s all part and parcel of enjoying your food.
Chef Yau started out as a kitchen helper at age 18 in the kitchen of a Japanese restaurant in a five-star hotel in Singapore. His passion sparked, he went on to tutor under Master Chef Yoshio Nogawa of Sushi Kaiseki Nogawa Restaurant, a pioneering Japanese restaurant in Singapore, where he honed his skills as a chef. He worked his way up to Master Chef, and his passion for the culinary arts and his desire to gain more knowledge and experience has taken him to the best kitchens in Hong Kong, Vienna and Tokyo. His creations reflect his passion for creative design, which ranges from fashion to architecture. Even his interest in designer toys is worked into his creations.