Allow me to be honest for a moment…
Sometimes I get so wrapped up in life I forget to update myself on what’s going on in the world; the culinary world that is. So six weeks ago I was torn between booking a workshop on modern chinese cuisine and one regarding Berlin’s culinary scene. I turned to my boyfriend and a culinary colleague for advice. They both inquired as to which chefs were directing each workshop. The second Kylie Kwong’s name rolled off my tongue, they both showed an enthusiasm that was surprising. They both proceeded to threaten to assassinate me if I did not sign up for the Chinese course immediately.
Through conversations with my boyfriend and colleague, as well as a bit of personal research, I learned that Kylie Kwong was a female culinary force to reckon with. I grew quite excited about the workshop; especially because I have seen how uncommon it is for women to achieve such a level of respect and success in the culinary field. So the day of the workshop I was sure to arrive very early to secure the best seat in the auditorium.
She blew in like a tumble weed from the plains of Australia. She began by sharpening her knife, which I always take as a good sign. She scanned her work space which was filled with a beautifully colorful array of vegetables and herbs. I mentioned to her that I tought everything looked great and she responded with “it can’t be great, we have to make MAGIC!” Kylie gave off an aura of positivity and passion that was exciting. I found my seat and waited for the magic to begin.
As the workshop progressed I became fonder and fonder of Kylie. It is hard to explain, she seemed to be doing everything at top speed, but it felt like a normal speed for her; it was smooth and seamless. The translator repeatedly had to ask her to slow down to allow a proper translation, which made me smile because I thought she wasn’t talking that fast, she just had a lot to say. Then again, I think I talk at a normal speed and many have asked me to slow down before. I felt a certain kindredness with Kylie.
The aromas that filled the auditorium were rich and earthy. I very much enjoyed the family stories she told that were as much a part of her dishes as the ingredients themselves. She explained that in chinese cuisine they treat herbs as a vegetable, not a garnish. I noticed they also use bold flavor fearlessly. I watched her use an inordinate amount of ginger in a stock, but realized that perhaps in western cultures we just do not appreciate ginger for what it is.
We were served the most succulent pork I have ever tasted! It was sweet, crunchy and tender. The complex flavor was perfectly contrasted with a very fresh chinese coleslaw that has now become my favorite salad. The colors and fragrances jumped off the plate to feed the senses. I could taste what Kylie meant by cooking with her senses and heart, not necessarily using technique.
After the workshop I also met two of her kitchen colleagues that were very gracious and interesting. The talked to me about the restaurant and how the work environment was fun and inspiring. Conversing with them just gave me more reason to want to visit the Billy Kwong Restaurant.
Kylie Kwong was a delightful woman who took the time to talk to me after the workshop was through. I was incredibly impressed with her as a woman, as a chef and as an individual. I cannot wait to visit her restaurant down under. Who knows… perhaps she will honor me with the chance to learn something in her kitchen as well as enjoy the pleasure of dining in the 50 square meter room that hosts her guests.