Vanessa Yung


How did you become interested in food? "My grandmother is very good at baking and cooking, and when I was little I started helping her. When I was about three, we made cinnamon buns - she added marzipan as a special ingredient, and it was so good. I was always interested in tasting things and, as a little girl, I even tasted oysters - and loved them. Cooking was a hobby until I was a teenager. I was making cakes and baking, and then I wanted to learn more. I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life because it doesn't feel like work. I'm glad I have had the chance to do food television, cookbooks and styling. It's been a lot of fun."

How would you describe your cuisine? "It's a little mixed because my dad is American and my mum is Finnish. And I travel quite a bit so I have an international view. I like to make international food but it also has a Scandinavian side - I love Scandinavian food and have lots of memories of it from my childhood. When you make a menu, it depends on the customers - is it a 10-year-old's birthday party or an old couple's anniversary? I have fun with cooking and don't take it too seri-ously, and I always want to create something new. You need really good ingredients - that's the soul of my cooking, something I got from Scandinavia."

You won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for À la Sara. How big a deal was that? "That was so much fun. I was so happy about getting my first book out I didn't even think anybody would see it, and when I got the phone call saying I was nominated, I said, 'Excuse me? Could you repeat that?' I was happy even to get nominated. When I won, I was shocked!"

What is your top tip for food styling? "When you're doing food pictures, the most important thing is daylight. That's the key - because then [the food] looks real. There are a lot of ways to do food styling but it shouldn't be fake. Some stylists even put oil on for the shine, or they put weird stuff in the sauce. I don't do that. When we were shooting the food for my cookbooks, we ate it afterwards. And when people try out the recipes, it's going to [turn out] similar."

You cook, you style food, you design kitchen uniforms - what's your favourite role? "That's hard. Everything I do is connected to food. Every day I'm working around food, but every day is a little different. Be it cooking shows, shooting a book or creating menus for a client or an event, it's all about the food and the passion I have for it. It's cool how that has brought me to different places."


Sara La Fountain can be seen in the Asian Food Channel programme Perfect Day, on Fridays at 3.30pm.