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January 10, 2010

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Healthy cuisine mark of a master

ACKNOWLEDGED as a guru of Chinese cooking culture, Master Chef Wan Tat Kong has over 40 years of culinary experience in Japan, Hong Kong and Canada.

He recently became a visiting chef at Chateau 599 in Shanghai to prepare a New Year feast for local customers, bringing together his concept of Chinese food, culture and healthy dining.

Wan began his cooking life at the age of 13 and has been executive chef of the Yokohama Royal Park Hotel in Japan.

He is now culinary director of Face Club in Hong Kong, a guest lecturer at Japan's Gakushuin University and a guest chef on Japan's NHK TV food program.

He recently published three cook books, including Japanese and Chinese versions.

And he also appeared as a guest chef on some of the most popular TV cooking programs in Hong Kong.

Q: What is the most distinctive feature of your cooking?

A: I use imported ingredients from Japan and cook them according to the Chinese style. So the food I make combines elements of Chinese cuisine and Japanese flavors, and I try to instill it with healthy concepts.

Q: Apart from good taste, what is your priority when you prepare food?

A: I attach the most importance to healthy and safe food. I prepare dishes according to the different needs of our body in different seasons.

For example, I offer lobster seafood salad to my guests in winter. The salad sauce is made from Japanese plums. It is both sweet and sour, and serves best as appetizer.

In traditional Chinese medicine, plum juice wets your whistle and moistens and nourishes your lungs, especially in dry weather. I also emphasize the appearance of food.

Q: Which of the many different dishes you have created are you most proud of?

A: A soup cooked with TCM, the most nourishing dish I have created. I choose the herbs and ingredients to make sure they not only taste good, but also benefit people of all ages and nourish every aspect of the body.

I was born in southern China where there is a strong soup-drinking culture. It is the top dish in Chinese cuisine, not only for its good taste but also because it is healthier than stir-fried dishes.

Q: Do you cook for your family members and friends?

A: Of course. I love them, so I cook for them. When I see them enjoying the food I prepare for them, I feel extremely happy.

It is the same feeling I have when I prepare food for guests. I also "love" my guests so if you visit my home, I would also welcome you with my cooking.

Q: What is the most important quality of a good chef?

A: The virtue of cooking. As a cook, you must respect your guests and yourself. You treat them with sincerity and in the way that you would want to be treated. You put your love into the food you are cooking. It is the first and most important quality of being a good chef.

Q: How did you build your career as a chef?

A: When I moved to Hong Kong, I was a humble teenager and had a tough life. I chose to be a cook so I didn't have to worry about being hungry. Then I became more interested in cooking and was happy when guests enjoyed the food I cooked. I learned from chefs in big restaurants and hotels, got to know the culture of Chinese food and went overseas to study.

Q: What suggestions do you have for people who love food and want to keep healthy?

A: I suggest people avoid diets, especially girls. Don't try to be on a diet only to stay slim. Eat every kind of food and keep a healthy diet. It will not only keep you fit but also make you look good.


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