Leonard Cheung was born and raised in sunny California before moving to Hong Kong to begin his culinary career at some of the most prestigious Michelin-starred eateries, from Bo Innovation to 8½ Otto e Mezzo Bombana. After honing his skills further at the Culinary Institute of America in New York and on travels across Europe, he returned to the city with a new vision, a dining establishment with an affinity for char, spice, acidity, flavour depth, through seasonally driven cuisine: Cultivate. One year on since its opening, we ask Cheung for his top – unfiltered – tips for aspiring chefs.
1) "Working hard" is already a given – you shouldn't use that quality as a key trait in what you can do
You should strive to find ways to get the same job done faster, and cleaner, every day, rather than just riding on "hard work".
2) Be patient
Learn to do all five mother sauces first, or learn to fillet a fish [properly] first, prior to jumping into doing spherification or f*cking around with liquid nitrogen.
3) If you have several years of experience under your belt, please remember one thing: you still don't know sh*t!
Don't think you're a sous chef or head chef material just because every kitchen is understaffed nowadays.
4) Once you're more senior in the kitchen, don't be so condescending towards the commis and junior cooks
You were just as bad as them when you first started. And don't be so judgmental and gossipy about your senior chefs – it will all come back to bite you in the a*s.
5) F*cking read
Get off IG and YouTube cooking-baking videos, and pick up a cookbook written by a restaurant or chef that you admire. There is no shame in doing the exact recipes from a book, and then emulating it to your style or your advantage – every chef does it.
All images courtesy of Leonard Cheung and Cultivate.
Cultivate, F, Shop A, G, 27-29 Elgin Street, Central, Hong Kong | +852 5303 1230