Cover Timothy Wang (Photo: Willow KL)

Meet the former sous chef who rose up the ranks to become the person-in-charge of the restaurant's kitchen

Willow KL, a restaurant situated in the W Hotel Kuala Lumpur, is renowned for its international cuisine, breathtaking views and purple-hued interior. The restaurant recently welcomed its new head chef, Timothy Wang. He was formerly its sous chef. 

With stints at Eleven Madison Park in New York City and Piano in the Dominican Republic on his resume, Wang brings a wealth of global experience. In his new role, Wang has been making adjustments to the existing menu by adding eight new a la carte dishes, as he slowly crafts it into one that reflects his culinary persona and skillset.

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Who has been the biggest influence on you professionally?

Chef James Kent at Crown Shy and Saga NYC, who was also formerly the chef de cuisine at Eleven Madison Park and NoMad NYC. He took a chance on me, enabling me to dip my toes into the gastronomic world through my internship in Eleven Madison Park back in 2013.

I was very inspired by the way he led and built his team. At Eleven Madison Park, he created a culture that pursued excellence from the very moment you stepped into the kitchen. The practice of constantly pursuing excellence and challenging oneself are what I aim to incorporate here as well.

What is a book/movie/show/podcast that you think every chef should read/watch/hear? 

The movie that I would recommend every chef to watch is Babette's Feast. In the movie, Babette was a chef from Paris. She became a cook at a monastery after fleeing Paris due to counter-revolutionary war. At the monastery, she was able to transform humble ingredients into hearty and healthy meals that not only brought nourishment to the locals but joy and pleasure of eating as well.

In the final scene, Babette's feast also exemplifies how a meal can break down barriers and differences through food.
 
Who is the chef you’d most like to cook with, dead or alive?

The chefs that I would like to cook with are without a doubt my chef friends, namely Chris Kong of Dearborn Singapore, Lroy Lim of Ignis, and Alberto Jimenez of Piano in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Some of my most cherished memories are cooking innovative new dishes with friends on off days.

We would present our dishes and everyone would give their feedback. We would just spend hours talking about food and restaurants. A lot of ideas do come out of theses sessions.

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What and where is the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

The best restaurant that I have had the pleasure of visiting was Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, New York. Despite the recent controversies, it was hands down the best food experience I have ever had. I was blown away from the very first bite to the last.

A humble radish served on a nail might look unassuming and ordinary. However, it made me question all the watered down flavourless radishes that I have eaten in the past. It completely blew away my expectations on how vegetables should taste.
 
What is your favourite food city/foodie travel destination?

It has to be Sydney. I have been very impressed with its innovative and exciting cuisine paired with the utilisation of impeccable and unique produce. With Josh Niland (Saint Peter in Paddington) breaking the conventional ways of preparing fish and Lennox Hastie (Firedoor in Surry Hills) paving the way for open fire cooking, there is no shortage of exciting food establishments there.
 
What is one ingredient you can’t live without? 

Definitely Shiro Shoyu. It is a soy sauce that is made from predominantly wheat that has the wonderful ability of providing umami and depth of flavour without overpowering the dish.
 
It’s your last meal—what’s on the menu?

Hainanese chicken rice all day and every day. It's appropriate for every occasion!

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