Ask A Chef: What Does A Gourmand Eat On His Downtime?
One of Malaysia's most accomplished chefs takes us for breakfast and lets us in on what he likes to eat when he's not leading his team to new culinary heights. What he says may surprise you.
Known for his contemporary French haven Enfin by James Won in the heart of KL, James Won is one of the city's most respected chefs.
He constantly pushes his Malaysian team to culinary excellence and puts his past experiences cooking in Michelin starred kitchens in Paris and Tokyo to great effect, creating all types of modern delights.
What Do You Like To Eat During Your Time Off?
Found at the entrance of ICC Pudu, Ah Weng Koh Hainan Tea & Coffee is the place of choice for chef Won when in need of an authentic Malaysian perk-me-up breakfast.
A buttery kaya toast, half boiled eggs or even the classic packet nasi lemak are his go-to options at this Hainanese establishment.
"I can have this everyday because I like good, clean, quality flavours. This food is very honest, you get what you're getting and they're not trying to be anything else," said Won.
Why Come Here?
Half coffee and half milk tea, cham is a drink that gives you the best of both worlds. Won always has a cup with his meal, preferably hot instead of cold, and it's easy to see why. Creamy, rich and frothy, this goes together with the above foods incredibly well.
"When I come here, they know me, they know what I want and they give me my favourite table. When I complain, they take it seriously," he said.
This coffee shop is currently owned by second generation family members of the founder.
"Good food has to evoke memories or it has to form new memories," he continued. "When I'm eating this, my childhood comes to mind. I feel very safe, very naive and that's the great part. I like to get that through my food in places like this,"
What Do You Look For In Your Food?
"I've never been a big breakfast person, so in order for me to have breakfast it has to be stunning and it has to be something I feel is worth having," Won confesses.
We stop next at this pan mee (flat flour noodle) store, at the same location, for a bowl of freshly cooked goodness beloved by many. Why come here? The answer was simple.
"I create fantasies every night, that's what my job entails. When you're engrossed in that, you sometimes get tired and you'll need to find more fairy dust to reinvigorate you," he admits. "When that happens, I need a dose of reality. This (pan mee) is reality and I like it because I feel relevant when I'm eating this. It is my culture, my identity,"
What Do You Snack On?
"McDonald's," Won said with a deadpan stare. "The Quarter Pounder is my thing," he added to our amusement.
Won goes on to tell us an anecdote where he once had McDonald's with 12 three Michelin starred chefs and all of them ordered the Quarter Pounder.
"I can also eat cereal all day long. If I don't know what to eat during the evening, I'll have muesli," said Won. "I don't like it with milk, I'll take it with French yogurt,"
Another go-to on his list – bread with fresh avocado, a dash of salt and pepper, a twist of lime and fresh tomatoes on top. Unsurprisingly, ondeh-ondeh is also a personal favourite.