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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 merrily.

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.

Chynna
Hilton Kuala Lumpur
3 Jalan Stesen Sentral
50470 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 03-2264 2264

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