Meet the Team: Chef Han
Each month, we will be introducing you to one of our team here at The Royal Garden Hotel. Following on from his World Cuisine Chef of the Year triumph, we decided it would be good to meet the man behind the Min Jiang magic - our Master Chef - Chef Han…
Reaching the pinnacle of his profession and collecting global accolades, Chef Han has truly delighted Min Jiang’s customers from the moment he first set foot in the kitchen. Having learnt his trade in Malaysia, Chef Han has brought his culinary talents to Kensington, carefully cultivating his craft in the Royal Garden Hotel ever since. He spoke to us about what makes Min Jiang just that little bit different…
What do you do in Min Jiang?
Working as part of a team, of course - which is necessary to run a kitchen like this. We try to bring in all the chefs to work together. Much of the job is about looking for new ingredients and learning from the rest of the chefs.
Do you get involved with the guests – do you interact with them?
I guess through the dishes we present to them, but I don’t really get out of the restaurant! At the moment we have quite a lot of customer requests for gluten-free products, such as chicken powder and soy sauce - we try always to give the customers more options.
And do you get feedback from the guests?
Yes, we get feedback. Very occasionally there are issues but we always try and address them and sort things out.
Was it always your dream to work in fine dining?
Yes, before I came to the UK I was already a chef in Malaysia, working for a Chinese restaurant for 7 or 8 years.
So why did you choose to come to the UK?
Because I think the future will be good for me here – coming to the UK, I can learn new things about the international market. In Malaysia it is a very limited market. Although in Europe it is not always easy to get a lot of ingredients because they are extremely expensive.
For example, truffles – they are not easy to get in Asia either, the prices are very expensive. And some ingredients are not that good to use over here. I use some local ingredients as European people might not find it easy to accept some of China’s dry seafood, for example like shark fin. We don’t use these type of ingredients so we replace them with something more acceptable in this market.
What’s it like working at the Royal Garden? How would you describe the atmosphere and the people?
I feel working in Royal Garden is like a family – my manager, the owner, it is very good, they treat me like a family member. From working in other places, I don’t know if the owner would treat their staff as well as this.
Is the taste noticeably different between Min Jiang here and Min Jiang in Singapore?
The taste is slightly different because of the ingredients. In Asia, the fish is different. We try to do absolutely the same things as I do in Singapore, for example with the duck.
And is the duck still the signature dish?
Yes. I think 70 or 80% of customers prefer to order Beijing duck.
Wow! Do you enjoy making the Beijing duck?
Absolutely. We make something like 14 Beijing ducks a day. If it is busy, sometime the supplier runs out! We use ducks from Silver Hill farm in Ireland.
If I didn’t know where to stay in London, why would you recommend the Royal Garden?
I feel it is a very good location here, we have a brilliant view from our restaurant. And all the staff here always try to be very positive. We always try to give very good service and look after all our customers.
What do you need in your role as a chef? What are the key skills?
I need to keep encouraging myself to learn more cooking styles, stay close to the market, keep an eye on what is current at the moment, and at the same time I need to go travel around the world, maybe Asia and China, to find out other cooking styles because I think some of the dishes in Europe could do with more spice.
I think the most important thing is to keep learning and creating new things. Every day brings you a new experience.