Chef Wan answers your 10 questions


I see you as a model for the 1Malaysia concept. Every one I know enjoys your show. Can you give us some advice how race relations can be improved in this country? Chris, Selangor

In any country, or culture, from history, birds of a feather flock together. Nevertheless, we must always remember that there is a God, the mighty creator. Whatever our religion, colour, or differences, at the end of the day, we must go back to the same source. In whatever we do, we must never discriminate against people because we come from the same source.

My mother is Chinese and my father is Malay. I have embraced just about everybody around me for the love of another human being. I always give back before I earn that respect.

I was asked to give a speech at a dinner recently with the ministers of Sweden, CEO of Ikea and other dignitaries. I talked in depth about my discovery of Sweden.

I never knew Sweden to be such a beautiful and enchanting country. Leaving Sweden was very difficult and I want, above all, to stay connected.

By staying connected, one becomes very positive. They embrace you and you them, and that is where love is. So try to love and give more; have more compassion for each other. Respect will come despite of our differences.

Many Malaysians see me as an icon, as a person true to what I am and with a lot of love. If we are united, we will be strong as a country. Bersatu kita teguh, Bercerai kita roboh (United we stand, Separate we fall).

So travel the world because it makes a man out of you. Then you will see how blessed we are. From festivals to food, let us learn about each other. It is our diversity that makes us special.

Whatever we do, always remember where our roots are.

What is your secret for success? Kevin Yap, KL

Success has all to do with passion. When you have a lot of passion in what you do, there is success. Success is not measured by money. If you are a painter, someone may not pay RM1 for your painting, but another may pay RM1mil. I am a chef and I enjoy making beautiful food. When you do something you like, it does not matter what others think about you. There are many people who are successful in their own way. But don’t measure it by millions, cars or titles.

Your cooking has taken you and Malaysia to international fame. What made you turn to cooking when you could have made enough as an accountant? Bulbir Singh, Seremban

I was motivated and driven by food. From young, I was blessed to work in the kitchen with my mother. I discovered the creativity in myself. Sometimes in life, we are so busy we fail to see or evaluate the talent within us. I chose cooking because it made me and many other people happy. If I wanted money, I would have gone to work in a bank.

How do you manage your time so effectively in order to play your various roles – a chef, author, actor, TV host and publisher? Tabitha CC Boi, Penang

Most people who know me admire my strength, my tremendous energy and ideas. I manage my time well because I want to be able to do the things I need well and with confidence.

I must also try to work with the people around me. At the end of the day, you have to train the team to do the work well and you must trust them too.

I have just returned from Stockholm, Sweden and will soon be going to Genting. On Sunday, I will head to Singapore. I think above all, I am a workoholic. I always have this motto – good, better, best. So I try to plan my my work carefully, TV, books and it has a lot with managing your time.

Do you recall some of the boo-boos that occurred while doing a “live” programme? For example, dishes being too salty, ingredients not in order, forgetting your script. In such instances, what did you do, especially when hosting a show abroad? Faizul Fadzil, Kuantan

Haa! Haa! Haa! Many years ago, I was doing a Kuali show. I was supposed to bake a cheesecake and I was talking about how to make a cheesecake that does not crack in the middle.

I was working with a new oven and the heat went too high. I opened the oven door and there was this huge crack in the cake and I turned smilingly to the TV cameras, and said: “Look at the St Andreas Fault. Even our face have cerawat (pimples) sometimes.” And I laughed!

The whole idea is we should not panic. I took marmalade and filled up the crack in the cake and I put pieces of oranges on it and it looked so beautiful.

It all boils down to how you handle the situation. We all have boo-boos. So my cake had a crack in the middle. Nobody will know if you just fill up the crack. So tomorrow you do better. Good, better, best!

How do you maintain your energy and passion all these years as Chef Wan? Nazura Ahmad, KL

By doing things. I don’t dwell too long on something I don’t likem, like a restaurant business. I do a lot travelling because I like it. Same with cooking. It is important to have a passion for the things you do. Then it becomes fun, like a vacation!

Now that you are a grandfather, will you be devoting more time to the family? What did you feel the first time you carried your grandson Tristan? Fikri Aziz, PJ

Ah yes, I must devote my more time to my family. When I was away for a while, I evaluated my life now that I have my grandson. I don’t want to make that mistake when my wife and I divorced. I didn’t spend time with my chidlren. I am going to be 53, money is not everything. I want time for the family.

The number of foreign workers are growing in restaurant kitchens. Do you think that these foreign chefs will, over time, change the authenticity of our unique Malaysian food? Michelle, PJ

Absolutely. When you don’t have culinary background you destroy the food. We need to look into this very seriously. I don’t understand why our local people don’t want to do this work. You cannot take someone from somewhere and make them cook Malaysian food. They are not working with their whole heart.

Who are the three most significant people who have shaped your attitudes and outlook in life?

Izura, Penang

My grandmother, from my mother’s side. She was 96. She died four years ago. She was a nyonya. I spent a lot of time with her, cooking and mastering peranakan food. I admire her for her strength. My mother raised seven of us. My mother is very giving and loves to share. I saw over the years the qualities my mother had and which I tried to have. Third person...umh... two can ah! Can’t think of a third. My character is like both of them.

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