As the future of sustainable and healthy eating dawns on us, people are looking to eat quality produce without the compromise of flavour. Mastering the transformation of simple salads to something more upscale, Chef Yoong Yuin Hun seeks to deliver something a a little more palatable with a refined touch. We speak to Chef Yoong about her journey that landed her in the salad bar known simply as Simply Green Salad.
Tell us a bit about your culinary background.
I learned to cook from books and television, then went on to culinary school, but previously I had in France and the USA. I developed a love for fresh ingredients and strive to give the best even when it’s just home cooking for family and friends. I have experience in casual and fine dining.
While I love hot cooking, I somehow never ended up in the hot cooking line, even after requesting it everywhere I went. As I was doing my internships and other jobs, I was always placed in the cold kitchen. It was never my interest but I came to terms as that’s where new staff start learning their responsibilities and skills. Even though I became good and tried to change my path, I was always retained in the cold kitchen due how well I know my food. Salads, cold appetizers and dressings became a part of me and I was always experimenting on new ideas.
How did you end up at Simply Green Salad?
I ended up at Simply Green Salad after resigning from my last job in fine dining. A salad bar was interesting, I have never really seen a gourmet salad bar strive in KL so instead of applying for just a job, I applied for the challenge. People always have this mindset that salads are boring, cheap, easy to do and you don’t need skills to handle a salad bar. But that’s not true, one needs knowledge in knowing how to retain the freshness of the salad leaves, how to mix and match flavours, how to inject savoury umami flavours in dressings, the different cooking methods of meats and other ingredients that can complement a salad and so on.
What is your philosophy when it comes to cooking?
We all need to eat and food brings joy when it is pleasurable. When I cook, I believe it is all about cooking from the heart using fresh ingredients. I feel happy when I see people eat my food as it gives me a sense of giving someone a belly full of happiness. A good cook should always bring out the best of the ingredients. A finished plate is a masterpiece and that is my goal. Every plate I serve is a masterpiece, doesn’t matter if it is for someone else or just me as I do not see cooking as a chore but cooking as a way to express my soul and my passion.
Which is your favourite dish on the menu?
With our extensive amount ingredients in our menu, one can create anything to suit that palate. On the menu, I would say my favourite is the Seafood Chowder, it’s a nice thick creamy chowder that’s very enjoyable on a rainy day.
You use quite a lot of local ingredients. What is your favourite ingredient you have used?
We try to use as much local ingredients as possible as local ingredients also means the freshest. But we do need to use a lot of imported ingredients such as baby spinach and avocados as these are what people want in their salads. My favourite ingredient to use would definitely be pumpkin. It’s so flavourful when you know what to make from it. Our pumpkins here are grilled and then roasted to give it a caramelised flavour that makes it delicious and slightly smoky, and it can be made into a creamy sweet savoury soup. The pumpkin soup is one of our best sellers.
What cuisine do you borrow from the most?
I’m very familiar with Western and Asian flavours. So with some dressings and meat items on our menu, you will get to see some of the influences, for example lemongrass chicken is somewhat of a fusion of ayam percik and Vietnamese flavours. And there’s Western flavours like Cajun spice and pesto.
How would you describe the cuisine at Simply Green Salad?
At Simply Green Salad, there is no specific cuisine. A plate of salad leaves is like a blank canvas, and the customers get to complete that blank canvas with what they want. The salad can be Japanese influenced with yakitori chicken and oriental sesame dressing, topped with edamame and seaweed, or it can be a Mexican salad with tortilla chips, avocado, onions, corn and black beans. Our menu offers Western and Asian flavours so our customers can customize their meal according to their taste and preference.
What is your philosophy when it comes to service?
A restaurant is like a home, whenever we have someone over at our home we would of course be hospitable and make it as comfortable and enjoyable as it can be for our guest. That is what service is at a restaurant. At Simply Green, we make sure our staff are always smiling and are friendly to all customers. We instil in our staff to treat the customer as how you would like to be treated at restaurant. Always put yourself in someone else’s shoes. At Simply Green Salad, we address our customers by name, it makes it less formal and gives customers a casual friendly environment to dine in.
To get better acquainted with Chef Yoong’s culinary prowess, see our review of Simply Green Salad.