Cook like a king

Chris Lau

Originality and a love of dim sum have helped a young chef win a job at a top Hong Kong hotel.

Chris Lau |

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Felix Leung's imaginative dishes helped him win the contest.
As young chef Felix Leung Hin-wa glides across the kitchen and places his dim sum into a massive steamer, the last step to sealing the flavours of his dishes is complete.

"I am making a tart stuffed with diced abalone, mushroom and barbecued pork," Leung explains.

He is one of five finalists at the Dim Sum Talented Chef Competition 2013 - a cooking contest organised by The Peninsula Hong Kong. The final took place on July 16.

After an exciting morning of cook-off and presentation challenges, Leung claimed victory. He won a cash prize of HK$25,000 and two years' apprenticeship at The Peninsula Hotels, spending a year in Hong Kong and six months each in Beijing and Shanghai. The first runner-up was Lawrence Law Siu-tong, a fresh graduate of the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute, while Karen Chan Yin from Our Lady's College took third place.

"I want to see as much as possible, especially all the food made by different chefs," the winner tells Young Post. "I want to learn from them and be inspired to create my own signature dish one day."

Most good chefs with financial backing from their family get off the ground easily as they can afford to sample exquisite cuisine and attend prestigious cooking schools.

But Leung's story is different. The 21-year-old - who left school after Form Five - says he's from a lower middle-class family.

Not interested in studies, Leung found a job as a delivery boy, making only HK$4,000 a month.

"I remember the pay was so low because the minimum wage hadn't come into place back then," says Leung, who will use the HK$25,000 he won to help his family.

His older brother is in university and his father is an occasional gambler. These factors put a burden on Leung and his mother, who are the family's main sources of income.

The humble chef-to-be soon knew his job was not sustainable. Taking advice from his father, who is also a dim sum chef, Leung decided to follow in his footsteps.

When he joined the contest - which he found out about online - Leung had already been working in the field for two years. He used to work at several restaurants, including Super Star Seafood Restaurant, and another eatery, where he worked alongside his father.

Leung's secrets of success stem from his creativity and passion for the popular Chinese classic, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The abalone-stuffed tarts that he made were inspired by the burning of chained barges, an event which happened in the wartime fiction.

Also, he created an enticing dim sum stuffed with yam, mushroom and meat, in the shape of Dumbo the elephant. It has taken the champion a while to recover from the shock of winning, but he is now poised to take his dim sum skills to another level.

"I am quitting my job in two days, and I'll start my apprenticeship at The Peninsula Hotels as soon as I have more details," he says.

Leung says the win has given him mixed feelings because he used to be a frequent gamer, and he only found out about the contest while playing an online game. So it seems "luck" has opened a whole new world of opportunities for him.

The chef says: "It gives me more confidence in going further."

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- Budding chef Vanessa Tsui Wing-yin was crowned the winner of the Towngas Young Master Chef competition