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The Best Of Hong Kong
Lifestyle News
By Leanne Mirandilla | January 22nd, 2020

Chef Yam Wai-lok boasts over a decade of experience at a variety of Japanese restaurants, including establishments at Eaton Hotel and Harbour Grand Hotel. He recently took on the role of head chef at intimate Japanese restaurant Gyotaku in Lan Kwai Fong. We spoke to him about the intricacies and draw of Japanese cuisine.

How did you get into food and cooking?

I am the youngest at home. When I was young, we had to share the housework. In order to avoid dish-washing chores, I chose to take up cooking as a chore instead. That’s how I cultivated my interest in cooking. 

What about Japanese cuisine specifically?

To me Japanese is a very delicate, elegant and diverse cuisine. I am a very detail-oriented person and love to play with high-quality and fresh seasonal ingredients. 

Why did you decide to specialize in Japanese cuisine?

There are so many different varieties of cooking methods for a single ingredient. For example, for fish you can do sashimi or grilled; you can do yakitori for each part of a whole chicken. Japanese cuisine as a whole is super challenging, which you cannot find in other cuisines. 

What training did you do to become a chef?

When I first started my career, there were very few Japanese culinary institutes around, so my experience came from working under Japanese chefs at various restaurants. I also practiced my skills in the kitchen during my rest time and was constantly fine-tuning my craft. 

What do you think are the most important attributes for a chef?

Be modest, eager to learn and willing to listen. Being organized in your working environment is also very important.

What makes a good dish?

A great dish can be created from any sort of ingredients. It is not always about the price of the ingredients, but the attitude of the chef—whether we only cooking the food for the sake of it or whether we are aiming for the best results. To make a great dish you must undergo a number of trials, learn from your mistakes, and really understand the nature of the ingredients.

What’s one of your favorite dishes, personally?

I love hot pot! Hot pot always features the freshest seafood, meat and vegetables. It is simple, but at the same time you can taste the original flavors from it. 

Where do you get your culinary inspirations from?

I get inspired while traveling to other countries or visiting restaurants serving other types of cuisine. By absorbing their cooking methods and seasoning techniques, I can make my own dishes better and more unique.

There are plenty of Japanese and sushi restaurants in Hong Kong. What do you think makes a Japanese restaurant stand out from the crowd here?

The quality of the food, food presentation, and most importantly passion and enthusiasm. 

Any plans for the future?

Quite a lot, actually, as Gyotaku will change its tasting menu every three months using seasonal ingredients.

Dishin’ the Dirt profile.