Ping Coombes grew up in Ipoh a town in Malaysia where people around the country travel to for good food. In 2000, she came to the UK to study and she shares how that move inspired her to start cooking, “I was at university and was craving food from home so I taught myself to cook. I saw it as an opportunity to learn and to experiment.”
With lots of failed experiments and panic calls back to her mum in Malaysia, she started to cook Malaysian food for herself and for anyone who were willing to be guinea pigs. Since then Ping’s career has taken off, winning MasterChef in 2014, becoming a Malaysian food ambassador, and is now working with Chi Kitchen to bring some fresh Southeast Asian cuisines including Malaysian to London.
Here, Ping shares what inspired her brand new ‘Breakfast Club’ at Chi Kitchen, her role as a food ambassador, and what’s next for her as a chef.
What inspired you to start the Breakfast Club?
When I moved to the UK 16 years ago, I had to fry spaghetti with bacon at 7am at my boyfriend’s parents’ house, as it had the closest resemblance to noodles. I was craving breakfasts from home. They thought I was mad!
I was brought up with a wonderful array of dishes, and cereal just does not cut the mustard. There are so many interesting dishes around Southeast Asia, so the Breakfast Club at Chi Kitchen is a perfect excuse to bring some of that to London.
What is the goal of the Breakfast Club? How often will you host the club?
The goal is to introduce and test out new dishes, while delivering a new experience for our diners. The Breakfast Club will be hosted every second Sunday of the month. The first event launches this Sunday 9 October.
What inspired this menu? How do you source and purchase ingredients?
I thought I would start off with some of my favourite dishes for breakfast. As a pan-Asian restaurant, we already have a trusted group of suppliers, so all of the ingredients come from our existing suppliers.
What are your tips for restaurateurs and chefs interested in hosting a similar event?
Get a team together to float ideas, do some research and allocate tasks. I am very lucky at Chi Kitchen, we have fantastic group of people who are enthusiastic and passionate.
As a chef, how do you stay creative?
I eat out a lot and keep tabs on the latest food trends, and I love to travel.
What is your role as a Malaysian food ambassador?
My aim is to spread the love for Malaysian food and products. More and more people are aware of Malaysian food, but more can be done to get this wonderful cuisine out there.
Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs?
It is not an easy job, but one that is highly satisfying. Be prepared to work hard and learn as much as possible.
What’s next for you?
I love teaching, so I am going to do more Malaysian cookery courses next year. I really enjoy being a consultant chef, so I look forward to creating more exciting dishes as well as doing more TV appearances.
Photo credit: MALAYSIA: Recipes from a Family Kitchen by Ping Coombes. Published by Orion. Hardback: £25, eBook: £12.99. Photography (c) Laura Edwards