Award-winning chef Leslie Chan brings a wealth of Cantonese cooking experience to Asian Inspirations. Discover the inspiration behind Leslie’s cutting-edge cooking, which marries authentic Asian ingredients with Western cooking techniques and a modern approach to Chinese food.
A life in food was always on the cards for Leslie. In fact, some of his earliest memories revolve around learning how to cook with his Cantonese grandmother in Hong Kong.
“I started helping my grandmother when I was four or five years old, and by the time I was six I was cooking simple dishes such as steamed fish with ginger and shallot, or steamed whole chicken,” Leslie recalls. “At that age, I wasn’t tall enough to reach the wok!”
Once he finished school, Leslie originally began training as a social worker, but the lure of the kitchen proved too strong. “I loved cooking too much,” says Leslie.
And so he began an apprenticeship, working in a five-star hotel in Hong Kong. This first foray into commercial cooking has shaped Leslie’s inventive style today, which celebrates authentic Cantonese flavours and Western cooking techniques with a thoroughly modern approach. “All the chefs came from Europe, so I began cooking Western food,” he says.
Leslie moved to Australia in 1999, completing his diploma of hospitality and a bachelor degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management. Leslie trained under the masters of Cantonese cuisine, including Robert Lew, the cousin of Flower Drum’s Gilbert Lau who has 50 years’ experience, and two Michelin-starred Tsang Chiu King from Hong Kong, who worked as executive chef at Silks restaurant at Crown.
Drawing on his cross-cuisine expertise, Leslie also taught Asian and Western cuisine at Holmesglen Institute of Tafe. “I love the crossover of cultures,” Leslie explains. “To me, Modern Australian cuisine is all about using the best local produce, incorporating Asian flavours, presented in a Western way.”
This passionate Melbourne-based chef is highly respected throughout the industry, having won scores of awards for his unique cooking style, including multiple gold medals in the Australian Culinary Challenge from 2010 to 2016.
“I love cooking and I love competition,” says Leslie. “For me, food isn’t just about your tummy. It’s about sharing your love and passion, and communicating that through your recipes. Food is an art form, a way of building relationships.”
A master of balancing the authentic with the cutting-edge, Leslie draws on a range of equipment in the kitchen, including the classic wok, oven and frypan, as well as more modern options such as sous vide and the Rational combi-oven. “I like the gentle nature of sous vide (water bath), and the way steaming massages the food, locking in the quality, colour and ingredients.”
Image Courtesy: Seriouseats
Keep an eye out for our video of Leslie creating an ultra-modern take on the classic pork siu mai, and more Cantonese cooking tips from chef Leslie Chan. For easy Chinese meal solutions, try 8 Cantonese recipes the whole family will love.
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