Mr. Chew’s Chino Latino is no new entry to the Kuala Lumpur dining scene, with its inventive and fun cuisine playing on flavours that we know with a modern twist. The kitchen is now headed feisty and fun Francophile Mischa Chong, a chef who speaks her mind and let flavour do the talking. We sit down with her to find out what makes her tick and how that applies to her cuisine.
Mischa Chong of Mr. Chew’s Chino Latino Bar
Mischa Chong has been a chef for 8 years, who was part of Fuego’s opening team as well as the opening team at Mr. Chew’s when it was at WOLO. She then left for France to be the Chef de Partie at Le Table du Boisinaird, at Chateau Boisinaird, Vendée, France before returning to Malaysia where she currently heads the kitchen as Chef de Cuisine at Mr. Chew’s. Mischa speaks decent French which translates to her work ethos, about doing something, and doing it well, just like her approach to French cooking.
What is your philosophy when it comes to your cuisine?
I usually serve food that is down to earth, and mostly things I myself would want to eat. My heritage is Hakka, but I would say my influences comes from the different variety of food that I eat. I learn a lot from my family. I would say I use a lot of sesame and spring onion. I cannot imagine my restaurant without it. Also garlic and seaweed, I use a lot of that too.
Is there a specific type of cuisine that you serve at Mr. Chews?
When it comes to cuisine specialisation, I would say that we serve an eclectic mix of European and Asian cuisines. I get more of my ideas from my travels, but I would say that what we do is French application, Asian ingredients.
Where do you draw your inspirations from for your dishes?
I like to think outside the box with my dishes, but as you can guess, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. I tried making a tomato crumble one and it didn’t work too well, so its back to the drawing board again. What I found was that without basics and foundations, you can’t make what you think you want to make. It is only through years of experience and practice; I find that helps the most.
What is your favourite food to eat?
For me I would say it’s the Oeuf à la Coque, which is basically like our soft-boiled eggs, but I would have them with bread soldiers. But that is me today. Tomorrow I might say rice cake. It’s too hard for me to give you a definitive answer. Some days when I crave something I will try to figure out how to make it.
What are your three of your must try dishes at Mr. Chew’s?
For me it would be the Mr. Chew’s Foie Gras on Betel Leaf. You should also try our Catfish Charsiu Bun which makes a good snack. We use an extra-large catfish as we found the flesh to be more springy, thicker and more flavour. This dish is topped with Thai papaya som tam. Another dish I would highly recommend is our Duck Confit, served as a half boneless Bidor duck, confit in canola oil with Asian spices like galangal. We then base it in hot oil to crisp skin.
Are there any chefs that inspire you?
There are so many good chefs out there without big names. I have so much respect for them knowing that we are all going through a hard time right now. There are so many great chefs locally and abroad, but also never forget the people who works on hawker stalls, who create some of the best food in the world.
Do you think your gender has helped or set you back in the kitchen as a female chef?
Being a woman, you can’t help but notice discrimination that most women will face, but men might have their own difficulties too. Throughout my journey I haven’t found much difficulty. Some people might tend to find me weaker mentally and might respect me less, but for me my work will speak for itself. Of course, there are some minor things, but they are usually not serious.
Do you have any advice for young chefs entering the industry?
I would say firstly, culinary is a tough industry. In this industry, your hard work won’t necessarily see results so quickly. It is like you have to almost expect that it may never come. You must never forget you are your own leverage.
| PHOTOGRAPHY: MR. CHEW’S CHINO LATINO | WEBSITE: MR. CHEW’S CHINO LATINO |