Parents are usually the first role models we have in our lives. That said, only a handful of us end up following in our parents’ footsteps when it comes to our lifelong careers. Among that handful is Chef Joe Leong, who was inspired by his parents to enter the culinary world back in 2009 when he was just 16 years old.
This then begs several questions: who is Chef Joe Leong? And just how similar is he to his father and now boss, celebrity chef Sam Leong? We caught up with Chef Joe after his first week at Forest森 to find out.
Following in his parents’ footsteps
Growing up in a family of well-known chefs, Chef Joe was constantly exposed to Cantonese, Chinese and Thai cuisines, and was curious as to how his parents could dedicate so much time and effort into the kitchen.
This gave him the impetus to put his formal education on hold in order to try his hand at the culinary arts right after he completed his GCE ‘O’ Level Examinations:
My parents were very reluctant at the start as I was a rather small boy, and they thought I could not handle the pressure of the kitchen. But they were very supportive throughout my whole journey, helping me as much as possible along the way.
Staking a path of his own
But he didn’t get to become a Junior Sous Chef at Forest森 today simply because of who he is – he had to pay his dues just like any other aspiring young chef.
Chef Joe began his culinary journey learning the basics of dessert- and pastry-making as an apprentice at 2am: Dessert Bar under the tutelage of founder Chef Janice Wong (who was recently awarded the title of Asia’s Best Pastry Chef) and her Sous Chef Derrick Wong.
Following his stint at 2am: Dessert Bar, Chef Joe proceeded to pursue several other apprenticeships at restaurants serving French, Italian and experimental cuisines, where the young chef proved that he could handle the pressures of the kitchen as he expanded his culinary repertoire. These apprenticeships made Chef Joe certain that his calling was to be in the kitchen, specifically in the area of dessert and pastry-making, not limited by any particular cuisine.
So when asked how his style of cooking differs from his father’s, Chef Joe commented,
You can’t really make a comparison. I specialise in desserts while my father specialises in Cantonese/Chinese cuisine. They are two very different things.
Therein, while he may have followed in his father’s footsteps into the culinary world, Chef Joe has certainly come into his own by having a vastly different specialisation.
Father-son duo at Forest森
Thankfully, both can co-exist in a contemporary Chinese restaurant like Forest森 where guests come to expect Chinese classics with a twist. On top of specialising in desserts and pastries, Chef Joe will also be assisting at various cooking stations in the kitchen and interacting with guests at Forest森.
With a wealth of experience in various cuisines that allows him much culinary dexterity, guests at Forest森 can expect innovative desserts by Chef Joe, right after they’ve savoured his father’s renowned Cantonese/Chinese dishes.
Despite desserts being his specialty, Chef Joe says he still goes to his father for advice on flavour pairings when coming up with new dessert recipes. “Because he has more than 25 years of experience,” he explains with a glimmer of admiration in his eyes.
Most of us can only hope to have a fatherly figure at our workplace. Chef Joe is certainly fortunate enough to have his actual father as both his career and life mentor. Now that’s one father-son duo to be envious of.
Witness the father-son duo in action and dine at Forest森 today.
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