You may have sampled his cuisine at Drake One Fifty's recent Chinese New Year pop-up event with Nick Liu, or maybe you've been a devotee of our first standalone restaurant since we opened back in October. Whatever the case, chances are that you've tasted the foodie grace of Mr. Pong, Executive Sous Chef at Drake One Fifty.
Meet the mind behind the taste here as we get to know Drake's chefs, starting with our outpost in the Financial District.
Drake: How did you come to be working in the culinary arts? What first inspired you to choose food as your art form, and how long have you been doing it?
JP: My grandma would do most of the cooking for the family when I was growing up. I was always curious and around her in the kitchen. We also watched a lot of cooking shows together: Yan Can Cook, Wok with Yan, and Pasquale’s Kitchen are very nostalgic to me. After high school, without any idea what I wanted to do, I ended up going to university for science. I dropped out after two years and at that point I decided to try cooking as a career. 13 years later, I’m still at it.
Drake: What would you say has been your greatest challenge as a chef, before or during your time at Drake? What's been your favourite moment?
JP: Kitchens are tough environments: long days, high stress, little room for mistakes. When I first started cooking, having to keep up with my peers and my chef’s expectations was a struggle. Sketch (in London, UK) was the hardest kitchen I’ve ever worked. Every day was a battle amongst the other cooks and getting set for service was extremely challenging. Being able to consistently put out food that was my best interpretation of the chef’s vision was the biggest challenge.
However, this also ties into my favourite moment in kitchens: when everything is running smooth during the push of service, and everyone’s on point, focused, and putting out good food. All the hard work makes it that much more satisfying.
Drake: How would describe your personal vision when it comes to the culinary arts in general?
JP: It's hard for me describe my personal vision, as I can’t confidently say that "this is my food" or "these are my flavours." I like learning and cooking many different foods and what my current interests are change the way I cook. Right now, I’m really digging Japanese food—the way they layer their flavours, their aesthetics, the way they’re just bonkers over the littlest details, and their ability for focus.
I really enjoy working with seafood, and I like cooking with subtle layers of flavour, so that tends to go well together.
Drake: What are your favourite meals or recipes?
JP: Too many foods to choose favourites! I guess dim sum, sushi, and noodles are definitely at the top, as well as desserts.
Drake: What eventually brought you to Drake?
JP: Teddy! I first met Ted at Rain way back in the day. Then when he opened up C5, I was back in town and reunited. So when this Drake opportunity popped up, it was a no brainer.
Drake: As a major behind-the-scenes player, what direction would you like to see Drake take in the future? Are there any culinary innovations or big ideas you’d like to see?
JP: I really like what Momofuku is doing with Shoto. Also, the tasting menu at Yours Truly is fun and conducive to sharing. A Drake version of that would be pretty neat, I think.