Restaurateur and executive chef at one-Michelin-star VEA, Vicky Cheng grew up in Canada and attended George Brown College in Toronto before working in some of North America’s best restaurants.
He was at New York’s Daniel when he decided to return to Hong Kong, which was good timing as the restaurant fine-dining scene was taking off.
At VEA, Hong Kong-born Cheng offers French-inspired food with Chinese elements, served omakase-style with eight-course seasonal sets.
It is more often than not a full house at the 46-seater restaurant, so perfect timing is essential to keep the service and food top-notch.
“Timing is important in the F&B industry, everything is to do with timing,” Cheng says. “It starts with the time we get into work and start prepping, to the time a guest shows up. And then it is important that timing is right between stations, from the time each dish gets cooked there is a very short lifeline; once a dish is cooked, it needs to be served immediately.
“For a chef, time is important – the exact temperature, the specific time with a precise technique, is what makes a perfect result. Sometimes, within a few seconds or one minute, a dish can really deteriorate – so timing is one of the most essential things about cooking.
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“Time management is a big deal in our industry, but also with our personal lives,” Cheng continues. “This gets challenging because as a chef, husband and new father, managing life outside of work is important. Juggling family, my daughter who is growing up day by day, with the job I love.
“For me, it’s about balance and understanding each other, but sometimes it’s not easy making sure you have enough hours in the day to manage everything you have to do at work, and then spending time with the family. So we organise ‘no work’ days, which means no phones, because it is so convenient to continue to work when you are not working. You pick up your phone, and all of sudden you have emails, apps with many different ways of messaging, so you often get sidetracked.
“We spend Sundays with our daughter, finding activities and playgroups, spending it together. I thought the recent typhoon 10 was one of the most wonderful days because we weren’t looking for things to do, we weren’t making plans to go anywhere, we didn’t have a choice but to eat at home.
“We ended up spending the whole day at home being lazy and it was wonderful. Where time wasn’t an issue.”