The Great British Menu chef has acquired a whole trophy cabinet of accolades (three AA rosettes, a Michelin Bib Gourmand and Trencherman’s Best Chef 2019) for his Asian-Kiwi fusion cooking at Kota. We invited him onto the Food therapy couch
WHICH FOODS TAKE YOU BACK TO CHILDHOOD?
Rice congee and Mama Kereama’s ginger poached chicken. My mum is Chinese Malay and I grew up in New Zealand so my food was a real mix of these cuisines. These two dishes are so homely and delicious and I look forward to them when I go back to visit the family.
WHAT DOES HOME TASTE LIKE?
My childhood home was all about ginger, coriander, kaffir lime leaves, chilli, turmeric and garam marsala. I love those ingredients, but I also love to cook a large variety of different cuisines in my own home.
LAST THING YOU ATE?
I’m currently travelling through New Zealand on my way home for a family wedding, so my last meal was Japanese miso ramen soup with pork belly, and some panko crusted prawns. The broth was so rich and sweet and the pork belly so unctuous and beautifully roasted, and who doesn’t love a crispy prawn?
WHAT WOULD YOU NEVER EAT AGAIN?
I haven’t found anything yet that I don’t like. I was brought up on pork trotters, tripe, pigs’ kidneys, fish head curry, sweetbreads, sea urchin … so I’ve eaten a lot of foods you wouldn’t see every day. Actually, I’ve just remembered one thing I didn’t love, which was bird’s nest soup. It was a little gloopy for my liking, the texture of runny snot.
WHAT’S YOUR BAD DAY COMFORT FOOD FIX?
A good roast chicken is always a morale booster. And after the roast there are always leftovers for chicken sandwiches and bones to make a lovely stock.
WHAT’S IN YOUR FRIDGE?
You’ll always find miso paste, ginger, wasabi, soy ginger dressing, fresh vegetables, fruit, yogurt and chilli paste in our fridge. I balance these wholesome ingredients with wine and beer – in particular, Sharp’s Offshore Pilsner.
GRAZER OR THREE-MEALS-A-DAY-ER?
I have quite an appetite and eat all day. We always have delicious meals for the staff, ranging from curries, fried noodles and fish pies to the Sunday roast. We believe in making sure our team are fed well.
WHAT FOOD MAKES YOU HAPPY?
Food in general makes me happy. I love lots of different cuisines and I think that’s reflected in my own cooking style. There’s a time and place for all styles of eating so I enjoy tasting menus as much as dim sum or tapas.
SELF CONTROL OR SELF INDULGENCE?
Self indulgence every time. I’m not afraid to say I eat way too much, but I balance it out with work and exercise. I like to run and play tennis, so that gives me licence to eat what I like. It’ll all catch up with me one day and I’ll be so big I won’t be able to leave the bed.
Ever wondered what your fave foodie has lurking in the back of their fridge or what they scoff when nobody's looking? Bath-based MasterChef winner, Ping Coombes, reveals her deepest self through tales of comfort food, Ferrero Rocher frenzies and the time she ate deep-fried squirrel