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Q&A: Sebastian Escudero

The Sydney-based Chilean chef is on a mission to put his native cuisine on the Asian culinary map, writes Amanda Choong

 

How did you learn to cook? "I learned from my grandmother. She taught me from when I was five or six years old. I have always loved food, not just eating it, but its preparation."

How would you define Chilean cuisine? "There is a lot of French influence in Chilean food. For instance, we use butter in our cooking; I tend to use a lot of butter. We also use chorizo [spiced pork sausage], which has some Spanish influence, but we use the Chilean version."

Your recent menu for the Food Plaza at the Hong Kong Jockey Club featured ostrich meat and lime jelly. Can substitutions be made? "The menu is a mix of fusion and traditional. I wanted to keep it traditional, but I also wanted to make it innovative for the Hong Kong public since they are still not knowledge-able about Chilean cuisine. The ingredients can definitely be switched. Instead of ostrich medallions you can use beef. That is the beauty of food: you can switch things around. It's a matter of getting used to the palate of the people you cook for."

What are the main differences between Asian cuisines and those of South America? "We do not use ginger in traditional cooking. We might use just a little bit in pastries, or we might use dried ginger, but it is generally not an ingredient that is part of our culture. Here in Asia, though, all the food has ginger in it."

Have you found any ingredients in Hong Kong that you would like to incorporate into your cooking? "Of course! I'd like to use coriander, which is a very Asian ingredient, hoisin sauce and soy sauce. I think that every ingredient you taste as a chef, if you love what you're doing, you will find ways to use them."

Have you found any favourites among the local dishes? "My new friends at the [Jockey Club] brought me out to try traditional Hong Kong street food. I really like claypot rice and oyster cakes."

Do you plan to open your own restaurant? "Yes, probably in Australia, or maybe even Hong Kong. To present something new to people, it needs to be completely new. In Hong Kong and Australia, Chilean food is something new. One of the missions of an immigrant … besides absorbing the culture of the country you're in, is showing a bit of your own culture."

 

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