Conrad Macao is welcoming Chef de Partie Mr. Kyonghoon Chong (Daniel) from Conrad Seoul who will be special guest chef at Grand Orbit restaurant from the 19th of September until the 29th of September. A Korean national, Chef Chong has more than eight years of culinary experience in Korea, China, Indonesia and the United States, where he worked for many five-star luxury hotel restaurants including the past two years at Conrad Seoul. During the Korean buffet food promotion at Grand Orbit, Chef Chong will be preparing authentic Korean soups and hot and cold dishes. MDT had the privilege of chatting with him before his visit.
Macau Daily Times – Are you familiar with the Chinese palate and have you ever been to China? If so, how do the Chinese react to your dishes? What is their feedback?
Chef Chong – When I was young, there was a Chinese restaurant called “Hall of Huidong (惠東)” near my school. I used to go there with my family to enjoy Chinese dishes on special occasions.
Afterwards, while working at hotels, I was able to experience sophisticated Chinese dishes through Chinese promotions. Through those experiences I got familiar with Chinese dishes. Lately, I personally visited China twice and experienced Chinese food culture. I tried to taste various regional cuisines, as many as possible, and among them I felt that Sichuan-style cuisine suits the Korean palate.
I haven’t had a chance to introduce my Korean dishes to the Chinese yet. However, through this opportunity I would like to introduce the true taste of Korean food to them.
MDT – Do you plan to alter the taste of the Korean cuisine to cater to the local palate in Macau?
CC – I personally believe that it is important to recreate Korean dishes by using local produces when introducing them in other countries. I insist to use Korean ingredients such as Doenjang (Soybean paste), Ganjang (Soy sauce), and Gochujang (red chili-pepper paste), which are core ingredients to bring out distinguishing flavors of Korean cuisine, but for the rest of the main ingredients such as seafood and meat, I try to use the freshest local produce so that local people feel more comfortable to try and easily enjoy them.
MDT – What do you think distinguishes Korean cuisine from other Asian cuisine?
CC – What distinguishes Korean cuisine from other Asian cuisine is that it is cooked in a health-focused manner. We use fermented foods such as Doenjang, Ganjang, and Gochujang, which are valued for their health benefits. Basically, we use a lot of vegetables and various seasonal ingredients. Also, Korean dishes are most likely to be steamed or boiled.
MDT – What is your personal touch when it comes to presenting your dishes? Are you a creative person? What makes you different from other Korean chefs?
CC – As a chef I always “keep things simple”. What makes me different from other Korean chefs is that I add my experiences and efforts to those basics and recreate my own style of Korean dishes. This is my personal philosophy that I will consistently pursue in my life as a chef. I hope this promotion will be another great opportunity for my personal development.
MDT – What is your worst experience in the kitchen?
CC – The worst experience I’ve ever had happened when I was working in a hotel in downtown Seoul. The working environment was not good enough to make great Korean dishes and I faced many difficulties due to lack of staff, cooking utensils, facilities and equipment. However, I tried hard to improve things one by one and at the end I was able to provide top quality Korean dishes and to form the foundation of my cooking ability. That experience made me the person I am today. Therefore, I would to say there is no such thing as the worst enviroment.
MDT – What is your best experience in the kitchen?
CC – I have had the best experience at Conrad Seoul, my current work place. We don’t have an individual Korean restaurant, but at Zest, which is a buffet restaurant, there is a dedicated section for Korean food. We receive a lot of good comments from international guests as well as local guests because we provide seasonal foods using the freshest top quality local ingredients. Also, I appreciate the corporate culture that encourages team members to show their ability and to attempt to try new things. Conrad Seoul gives them full support when needed.
MDT – During your holiday, what type of food do you go for?
CC – When I have a day off, I usually visit famous local Korean restaurants to enjoy tasty Korean dishes. My favorites are Korean barbeque and homemade Soondubu jjigae (spicy soft tofu stew).
MDT – Do you have a favorite ingredient that you love to work with?
CC – My favorite ingredient is Go- Chu-Jang (Chili paste) from Master Ok Rae Moon. Ok Rae Moon is the master of our chili paste. Her family has produced it in the traditional way for seven generations in Soon-chang province. Organic ingredients such as sundried chili, rice, pure underground water are mixed and then mature in Onggi for 2 years.