Chef Lam Hock Hin, the recent
winner of the inaugural Chef
Congeniality award at the
Malaysia International Gourmet
Festival 2008 confesses that he didn’t
know what the word ‘congeniality’ meant.
“I was so happy to win. But the next day,
I had to look in the dictionary to see what
the word ‘congeniality’ meant. Wah, so
confusing lah the dictionary!” he chirps
Nominated by his fellow Malaysia
International Gourmet Festival brethren,
Chef Lam certainly fulfills the true definition
of the word ‘congeniality’. He has a bubbly
sense of fun, pitch-perfect comedic timing
and is friendlier than a hillbilly.
Born in a kampung, as he puts it, the
young Lam grew up in a typical Asian
family, where it was unfeasible for a man to
be seen cooking. “My father never cooked.
That’s why I always thought men cannot
cook!” he said.
A move to the city when he was 16
would change his mindset. He found
employment in the South Pacific Seafood
Restaurant, an old-time favourite in PJ.
“I did everything. I was the dishwasher. I
learnt how to clean fish and crabs. I learnt
all the basics there,” he said.
But it was clear that the talented Lam
was meant for greater things. He had
stints in revered restaurants and 5-star
hotels before eventually winding up in his
current position as Executive Chinese Chef
of Chynna, Hilton KL. When asked the
secret of being a good chef, he says “You
have to work hard and work smart. It’s
not enough to cook well. You have to have
good PR skills, effective communication
and efficient management abilities,” he
declares with conviction.
While no doubt in full possession of all
these skills, Chef Lam’s greatest weapons
are his ingenuous culinary concoctions.
Why, just a tiny sip of his Double Boiled
Winter Melon Soup with Shark’s Fin, Dried
Scallops and Dried Oysters is enough
to send you straight to cloud nine. The
clear, light broth is stocked to the brim
with ingredients and is so flavourful and
wholesome, you’ll find yourself re-enacting
the pivotal scene from Oliver and saying
“Can I have some more, sir?”
The chef’s Deep Fried Codfish with
Six Spices in Rainbow Sauce is another
pleasant revelation. A heady amalgamation
of almonds, black pepper, cumin,
breadcrumb, seaweed and thyme, the dish
is a delight to the senses. The pillowy,
flaky pieces of fish coat your tongue with
a beautiful, lingering freshness which will
haunt your dreams for days to come.
Even dessert is a breath of fresh air.
Escaping the clichéd nuances of cakes and
tarts, the Ice Jelly with Mint Ice Cream and
Nata De Coco is unlike anything you have
ever tried before.
It is to Chef Lam’s credit that his
enormous talent and increasing popularity
have done nothing to swell his head. After
all, he recently appeared on Ntv7’s Chinese
New Year special as well as The Breakfast
Show. While he alludes to some people
recognising him on the streets, he blushes a
little when his newfound fame is mentioned.
But ask him why he thinks he won the Chef Congeniality award and quick as a whip,
he says with the irreverence of a stand-up
comedian “Because I’m good, mah!”
Between 2 to 8 April 2009, the bubbly
Chef Lam Hock Hin will be collaborating
with Spanish Executive Chef Sergi Millet,
who is based in the famed Mas Rabell
Restaurant in Spain. In a double bill
themed ‘East Meets West’, you can expect a
tantalising spread which will be seared into
your senses for eternity.