Who Are The Masters Of Malaysian Cuisine?
It all started with cancelled travel plans. I was meant to be in Hong Kong to give a keynote speech about Southeast Asian Street Food and Cultural Identity. The coronavirus pandemic put paid to that, at least for the foreseeable future.
Then my weekly Char Kway Teow pop-up stall got cancelled indefinitely — again, courtesy of Covid-19.
I figured, what better time than for me to go back to what I know best, which was live cooking videos? This was something I’d done on various platforms and in various iterations since the early days of live video streaming some 8 years ago.
Within a couple of weeks of the launch of my Lockdown Malaysian Cook-Along series on Facebook, my fellow-Malaysian chef, TV host and award winning cookbook author Norman Musa sent me a message suggesting we collaborate.
Norman as well as my friend Zaleha Olpin of MasterChef UK fame (and author of the brilliantly-titled “My Rendang Isn’t Crispy”) had similarly had their food promotional travel plans thrown for a loop.
In spite of that, they were both keeping busy by engaging their social media audiences with their videos and recipes.
Even though we couldn’t promote Malaysian food in person and our food businesses had taken a hit, we were at least able to share our cooking knowledge via live videos.
So I saw that we were all basically doing the same thing, but we were all doing it alone.
And if you’ve ever been on social media as long as I (and Norman) have, you’ll know that going it alone is a tough slog.
So I figured we should do it together. Norman thought it was a great idea.
I started making contact with some of the top names in Malaysian cuisine — people I knew personally, whom I could trust to deliver.
MasterChef Malaysia judge Chef Johari Edrus agreed to come on board. Johari is a Swiss-trained chef with decades of international experience, and he is famous for his “eclectic cuisine” — he cleverly introduces the world to Malaysian flavours by incorporating traditional ingredients and cooking styles into his international dishes.
Pearly Kee is an award winning cookbook author and renowned Nyonya cook and instructor based in Penang. She is a living legend and we’re beyond pleased to have her.
Dave Murugaya has an inspiring story that deserves its own special feature; suffice it to say that despite losing his job thanks to the Covid-19 situation, he has managed to build an amazing YouTube presence in a very short time with his vegan Malaysian food videos through pure guts, perseverance and talent. I had to have him on the team.
Rene Juefri is the young and personable executive chef of DoubleTree Hilton in Dubai; he has won countless culinary competitions and he’s previously worked as chef de cuisine at Michelin-starred establishment Galvin in Dubai.
At this point, we had 7 chefs, and we were based in Malaysia, Australia, England and The Netherlands. We held a Zoom meeting and discussed adding an eighth chef, preferably someone in North America, so that we’re truly global.
We agreed that while we were going to be cooking and promoting Malaysian food, there was no prerequisite that the person had to be Malaysian. Hence the title, “Masters of Malaysian Cuisine”, as opposed to “Malaysian Culinary Masters” etc.
Heck, some of us have lived overseas longer than we have lived in Malaysia; I don’t even hold a Malaysian passport.
Nora Haron’s name was suggested by Johari, the senior member of our group. When Chef Jo speaks, I listen. I checked out Nora’s profile online and saw that she’s the owner of three restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Her social media posts are inspiring, beautiful, intelligent and uplifting, and her food looks amazing.
Nora runs a restaurant group that successfully lobbied for passage of a bill to feed school kids affected by the lockdown.
Nora’s family was scattered between Singapore and Malaysia during World War 2, and she has memories of spending her childhood holidays with relatives in Johor.
As with some of us who have lived or received our culinary training overseas, her food bridges more than one culture; in Nora’s case, it was Singaporean, Malaysian and Indonesian.
Nora is the first chef to cook Laksa at the James Beard House — something that no other Malaysian has ever accomplished.
She’s co-authored two cookbooks, and while working in the back kitchen for Martin Yan in his Taste of Malaysia TV series, she made such an impression that he invited her to present in one of the episodes.
Malaysia and Singapore were one country until 1965; this means that although she was born in Singapore, Nora shares the same culinary and cultural heritage as the rest of us.
More importantly, she’s masterful in the kitchen where Malaysian food is concerned.
We are excited to have Nora as part of our team and can’t wait to see what culinary magic she weaves in our upcoming series of live videos.
So this is what we’re going to do –
- As some of the world’s most well-known Masters of Malaysian cuisine, we are coming together through online Cook-Along broadcasts starting in June 2020.
- We’re going to go Live every Monday in two different timeslots.
- Through our individual styles, you will learn how to prepare restaurant-quality Malaysian or Malaysian-inspired meals you’ll be proud to serve your family and friends.
- You can watch these Cook-Alongs via our website or on social media, but make sure you register here >>MalaysianChefs.com/JoinToday << so you don’t miss our updates and other good stuff.
- Why are we doing this? We want to create an unforgettable experience for people united in their passion for Malaysian food, while raising awareness to help those who are less fortunate during these difficult times.
Stay tuned for further announcements, and please reach out to me for more details at firstname.lastname@example.org