Use fresh ingredients and strive for simplicity: celebrity chef Kelvin Cheung’s recipe for the perfect dish
Whether he is tossing up a Wok Stir-fried Szechuan String Beans or a fiery Wild Mushroom Tom Kha, Chef Kelvin Cheung believes in creating bold, big flavours. At Bastian, one of the restaurants where he works, Chef Kelvin is known for giving seafood a modern Asian spin and adding a generous dose of vegetables alongside.
So, a vast platter of crab finds as much pride of place on his menu as does a bowl of baby potatoes soaked in spicy kimchi butter or a tureen of wild mushroom in white wine. As for the cheesecakes, they are reportedly a world apart, with lemon, salted toffee, and cream cheese making them into light-as-air desserts.
Born in Canada, raised in Chicago, and based in Mumbai, Kelvin Cheung is a Chinese-Canadian who grew up in the kitchen. His culinary style draws inspiration from his Chinese heritage, his North American upbringing and French training, and is coupled with the freshest ingredients from local farms. Kelvin is currently F&B Director of Aallia Hospitality and chef at Bandra’s popular gastro-pub One Street and seafood restaurant Bastian.
In an interaction with YS Weekender, Kelvin speaks about his work, his favourite cuisines, and offers some advice to aspiring chefs
YS Weekender: Can you tell us about the web series ‘You got Chef'd’?
Kelvin Cheung: ‘You got Chef’d’ was a fun web series conceptualised by Dewar’s and Gobble. I got to be a part of it with different guests who didn’t cook that often. It wasn’t a cooking show so it wasn’t meant to teach people how to cook, just how to have fun with different ingredients and techniques that result in creating people’s favourite dishes.
Chef Kelvin Cheung with Rannvijay Singh on the show, You Got Chef'd
YSW: What is your role in the series and what do you love about it?
KC: I was hosting it for the first time which was super fun! It was the first time I was cooking as well as being the host of a series, and as they say, double is better. I hope I get to do more of this soon!
YSW: What is gourmet food and why do you think it is special?
KC: To me, the joy of cooking gourmet food is bringing together unique, rare ingredients and their flavours in a dish, and serving them in an artful manner. There’s a story behind each of these ingredients and dishes that make it so special.
Even on the show, You got Chef’d, a big part of the series was the conversation around the origin of the recipe, ingredients, and the memories interwoven with them. Gourmet is an experience, not just a technique.
YSW: How do you make gourmet food synonymous with millennial occasions?
KC: Though it was never my goal, I’ve been fortunate to receive opportunities to cook in front of the camera. I’ve never been the chef and the host. Creating food has always been my “happy place”, it always feels natural, whether I’m in front of a camera or not. Cooking in front of a camera is actually a really interesting and fun experience. Since cooking is always my comfort zone, I don’t mind it at all!
YSW: What do you love about cooking?
KC: I love every aspect of cooking, right from the transformation of raw ingredients to the final dish, to watching people enjoy and savour all the hard work that goes into creating a dish.
Kelvin finds that gluten free food suits him best
YSW: Are you an advocate of gluten-free food?
KC: I am not an advocate of gluten-free food, but my wife is extremely gluten-intolerant; even personally, I do better when I’m not consuming it. I have gluten-free options on all my menus as well because certain dishes taste better and that’s always my main reason for creating a dish.
YSW: What is your favourite cuisine?
KC: To eat, I love Japanese food. To cook, it’s Chinese!
Kelvin likes to call soup and broth, 'Love in a bowl'
YSW: Which dish do you love to cook over and over again?
KC: Soups. I enjoy cooking all sorts of broths, stew and soups. It’s love in a bowl!
YSW: How did you get interested in food?
KC: I was raised in restaurants. My father is a restaurateur, and while I started cooking at a very young age, my first official job in a restaurant was as a dishwasher at my father’s restaurant. He made me work my way up and prove myself before I was ever allowed to actually cook in the kitchen. My best food memories are those of me in my family’s restaurants.
In fact, my first food memory is of when my grandparents watched us while the parents were at their restaurant. Even as a small child I would sneak into the kitchen as grandma cooked to steal tastes and sneaky bites of the dishes she was preparing. My favorite thing to sneak were braised pork ribs. Not so easy to sneak those out, but totally worth it.
YSW: What are the food trends that you love in 2019?
KC: The top food trends for 2019 are sustainable foods and alternative health choices such as plant-based foods like hemp milk and alternative flours like sweet potato.
YSW: Please give us three tips on how to create a great dish.
KC: Always use the best fresh, local ingredients; cook with simplicity; and always strive for balance in your dish.
Chef Cheung says the secret to good food is fresh and seasonal ingredients
YSW: What are some of the mistakes that Indian cooks make?
KC: Not just Indian cooks, but all cooks in general make the mistake of overcooking ingredients, especially vegetables!
YSW: What do you like to do when you are not working?
KC: I love spending time with my wife and baby, going for long walks or cooking for them. Personally, my go to hobbies are Crossfit, sports and geeking out on video games.