Singapore-born chef Chui Lee Luk is no doubt one of Sydney’s finest female chefs or dare i say, in the country. Despite being born in Singapore, she spent most of her time in Malaysia and Australia which truly reflects in her cuisine of Modern Australian/Chinese/Malaysian with dishes such as Crisped Pork Belly with Tapioca Pearl Dumpling as a main.
A laywer turned chef, Chui completed her university degree in law but good food, eating out and great company made her think twice of her current career path. Testing the industry with a work experience session with Christine Manfield at Paramount (now Universal) was sufficient to satisfy her need to cook. Clocking hours with chefs such as Kylie Kwong (Billy Kwong), Dannii Chouet, Annabelle Saville and Tim Pak Poy – it is clear to say her culinary knowledge is at its Peak.
Chui is the 4th and current owner of Claude’s which was first opened by French chef Claude Corne. Since then however, Damien Pignolet and Tim Pak Poy had spent their times cooking in this 35 year old establishment.
Me: You specialise in modern French cuisine with an Asian twist, how did this passion for French cuisine start?
Chui: My aim has always been to express myself through my cuisine and restaurant. It’s an ongoing search. The present permutation looks to the outsider like French with a modern twist. My process is to fully understand the technique and/or ingredient that I’m interested in., and which later may appear in a harmonious dish on the menu.
I like the logic and rational nature of French cuisine. It was the main cuisine which was practised in Australia when i started thinking about a professional career hence my interest in it.
Me: How did it feel when you had the opportunity to run the award winning Claude’s restaurant.
Chui: It was a very emotional and exhilarating time, to take over the running of the restaurant from my then mentor figure.
Me: Can you tell us more about the menu and philosophy behind Claude’s. What will the diners expect when dining at the restaurant?
Chui: Everyone is interested in understanding every aspect that they are involved in at the restaurant from chef, waiter to kitchenhand. The diner is welcomed into what’s essentially the domain of crafts people who are proud of what they’re doing. We want the diner to enjoy a unique experience interacting with all the things that everyone is passionate about.
Me: A good tip when cooking chicken.
Chui: overcooked chicken tastes like sawdust.
Me: Favourite ingredient and why?
Chui: Chestnuts. It can be used as a savoury or sweet ingredient. My challenge is to bring its subtlety in whatever dish I’m incorporating them in.
Me: What was the first dish you learned to cook?
Chui: Baking cakes with my mother.
Me: Favourite dish to cook on a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Chui: Simply flavoured things. Current favourite is soba noodles in chicken broth.
Me: Do you have any tips or opinions to anyone who wants to become a chef?
Chui: Humility as you can learn from any person and situation you come in contact with.
Me: What are you future plans for yourself and the restaurant?
Chui: As far as future plans are concerned: Claude’s required total commitment from those involved in it including myself, I plan to continue contributing to the development of the artisanal nature of the restaurant so long as I can keep offering new ideas.
10 Oxford Street, Wollahra
New South Wales 2025
(02) 9331 2325
Claude’s twitter page: http://twitter.com/#!/chuileeluk
Claude’s facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Claudes/206626712703960
SMH TWO HATS – 2011
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