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By Gayatri Bhaumik | December 19th, 2019

Spring Moon, the authentic Cantonese fine-dining restaurant at The Peninsula Hong Kong, has been thrilling diners for years with its exquisitely prepared dishes. Now, this dining institution is getting a new lease on life with the arrival of a new Chinese Cuisine Executive Chef, Lam Yuk Ming. As part of the restaurant’s new offerings, Lam has introduced a Chef’s Table experience, along with a more interactive Chef’s Table – Authentic Cultural Tour. Plus, just six months after arriving at the restaurant, Chef Lam has ensured that Spring Moon maintained its one-Michelin star status in the 2020 guide. We chat to Lam about how he honed his skills, and what he hopes to bring to diners at Spring Moon.

How did you get into food and cooking?

I got in the industry at the tender age of 14. My brother introduced me to an apprenticeship in a Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong. When I started the apprenticeship, I was particularly inspired by the different chefs. They all had a strong foundation of traditional cooking skills, which requires a lot of practice and years of experience. During my apprenticeship, I was exposed to different sections on a rotational basis, which strengthened my skill in various cooking methods.

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

From my perspective, it is essential for a chef to be open-minded about the use of ingredients and techniques from different cultures. Also, it is crucial to be innovative. You have to be able to add new elements and ideas. But to do this well, you must also have a comprehensive understanding of the basics and the traditional way of cooking.

What makes a good dish?

To me, a great dish is prepared with an equal dose of classic technique and contemporary interpretation. Each expertly crafted dish is elevated to an art form, marrying striking aesthetics with a nuanced layering of tastes and textures.

What influences your cooking style?

My experiences in various countries have greatly inspired my cooking style. Working with different chefs, I was particularly enlightened by their culinary approach to and interpretation of Chinese cuisine while incorporating the taste of local audience.

What do you consider to be the standout moments or most important experiences of your career?

To me, my ultimate motivation is always to see our guests with a bright smile after enjoying my creations. This is the one thing that never changes no matter where I go – the country, the city or the restaurant might be different, but the smile that they share is always the same.

What’s your process for creating a dish?

I’ve worked in a wide range of restaurants in Hong Kong, Macau, Beijing, and the United Kingdom. Thanks to this, I’ve been exposed to different cultures and have learned to refine Chinese cuisine with a local twist. I usually start with a much-loved classic and look for ways to refine it. I try to add a subtle twist, and this is all about finding a delicate balance between tradition and creativity while highlighting authenticity and seasonality.

You’ve worked at some of the top Chinese restaurants in Hong Kong, Macau, and Beijing. What did you take away from these experiences?

Over the past 20 years, I’ve been particularly inspired by the gastronomic cultures in different countries. Each country or city boasts their own unique culinary culture, which is a combination of the local climate, geography, availability of ingredients, and many other aspects. To me, it’s fun to take inspiration from here and there, then to put these new ideas into my creation and curate authentic Cantonese with a contemporary touch.

Chinese cooking is very different from western cooking. What particular skills are necessary for a chef to do well in Chinese cuisine?

For Chinese cuisine, the foundation of fundamental cooking skills such as stir-frying, braising, and roasting are of the utmost importance. And, of course, in Cantonese cuisine, it is equally important to be able to have the aroma of the wok when it comes to preparing most dishes.

You’ve recently introduced a Chef’s Table experience at Spring Moon. What do you hope guests get from this experience?

I’ve designed this experience to offer an interactive, behind-the-scenes perspective. The Chef’s Table offers over 30 choices of Cantonese creations, and guests can choose six to eight courses from this. The experience ensures that our guests gain a deeper understanding of the rich cultural heritage of Cantonese cuisine.

You’ve also created a Chef’s Table – Authentic Cultural Tour. Why was this important to you? What do you hope guests will learn from this?

It’s a rather intimate experience that allows me to interact with our guests in a comparatively smaller group. With this, guests can learn more about my cooking philosophy and delve into Cantonese gastronomic culture.

What are your signature dishes at Spring Moon?

The Chilled sea cucumber with crab meat and plum sauce, and Pan-fried bird nest with crab meat and egg white are some of favorites as both are representative of my culinary philosophy, which is all about showcasing the traditional cooking approach while presenting a contemporary and creative twist in the plating.

In Northern China, Chilled cucumber is a common cold appetizer. The combination with plum sauce, peach tree jelly, and Philippine crab meat together bring a delicate sweetness and acidity which cleans the palate. Avocado oil is added to the crab meat to give it a refreshing yet nutty aroma and innovative touch.

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