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Pan fried carrot cake: one of the brand’s “Big Four”

For chef Mak Kwai Pui, skilled staff are vital

Vermicelli roll with pig’s liver: a “heavenly” dish

“Everyone has to work as a team to

test the items to make sure something’s tasty and

acceptable. Only then can a new item be put on the menu”

and shrimp in an egg roll, he might add egg white and vegetables to improve the dish’s taste and texture. Moreover, each menu item is prepared fresh to order, and every member of Mak’s team of highly-trained chefs is required to consistently use the same high-quality ingredients as their colleagues, no matter in what country their restaurant is located. “In every restaurant, before start-up, I go and investigate the ingredients and the market and what’s available for us to use,” the chef says. “The food at every restaurant must have the same quality taste, so I’m very strict about my recipes. Chefs need to follow the recipes and use the same quality ingredients – or something very close. I will even go and fi nd the local chicken and pork and taste these to check that they will achieve the results I want. I’m not worried about the chefs as they are all trained to a high level and are very skilled; it’s the ingredients that are key.” These standards and the commitment to consistency means the scope for creativity for any Tim Ho Wan chef comes purely through incorporating a few local twists into the menu. “I want to make sure all the products are consistent throughout my stores,” Mak emphasises. “However, there is a bit of room for localised menu items.” For instance, in Taiwan, Mak has worked with the restaurant’s chef to come up with a few items that incorporate fresh bamboo shoots, a local speciality. “Everyone has to work as a team to test the items and do all the checks to make sure

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something’s tasty and acceptable. Only then can a new item be put on the menu,” he explains. This thoroughness – on and off the menu – is something that’s been key for the Michelin-starred chef ever since he branched out on his own after a stint at Lung King Heen, the prestigious Cantonese restaurant in Hong Kong’s Four Seasons hotel. “At the beginning, I used consultants to help me design the workfl ow and layout of the kitchen, as well as helping with equipment choices and deciding where to place the equipment,” he recalls. “When you build a kitchen, the design is a very important piece of work because if it’s not right from the beginning, you’ll only have trouble in the end. Actually, it’s partly the life and death of your restaurant!”

And so is the skill needed to use a traditional Chinese wok: “This is the one piece of equipment I couldn’t live without,” he grins. “It’s a great skill to know how to use it, as you need to know how to control the time and the temperature. I use it to teach my trainees the techniques of Chinese cooking. It’s very representative of that style of food.” So what’s next for the chef who humbly says he only got into cooking because he had no choice (“My whole family are cooks; I just kind of followed the family tradition.”) but has worked his way up the culinary ladder? “My next move is toward the US, and then to Europe; I really want to spread the traditional Cantonese dim sum culture all around the world, except maybe to the North and South Poles.”



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