Chef shows magic touch

Chef shows magic touch

An award-winning cook always aims to excite the eye as well as taste buds with his culinary creations

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Master chef Edward Voon
Master chef Edward Voon
Photo: Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club
Eating a meal prepared by award-winning Singaporean chef Edward Voon is an adventure for the senses. Like a magician, he conjures up the flavour of smoke in shiny translucent pearls served with a fresh oyster and a foie gras (goose liver) starter that looks just like a Ferrero Rocher chocolate.

Last weekend Young Post was treated to an eight-course culinary feast prepared by Voon and his army of sous-chefs.

Voon, 36 (pictured), is the executive chef at La Pan, a grand gourmet restaurant - styled after the 17th century Versailles Palace - which opened last November at the Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club. The club, in the northern port city of Tianjin , also includes a five-star hotel and was built by Hong Kong tycoon Pan Sutong.

Voon promises to serve food that delights and stimulates the taste buds - and the eye. He is known for preparing desserts using liquid nitrogen; he mixes the cold liquid gas with cream, which then solidifies to resemble vanilla ice cream. As guests put the frozen cream in their mouths, it gives off smoke. "I always want to excite my guests; this is what motivates my cooking," he says.

The Singaporean is the personal chef to Pan, the polo club's founder, and follows him on his global travels.

Voon knew at the age of 14 that he wanted to be a chef and has studied the profession ever since. He was always interested in art and design and the use of fire and heat, so the subject of "progressive cuisine" - the study of the physical and chemical processes that take place during cooking - captured his imagination.

"I love eating and that's why I love cooking," he says. "Cooking is such a beautiful thing; it can bring people together in many celebrations."

Although mostly self-taught, Voon chose to move to Spain to study under Paco Roncero, a Spanish Michelin two-star chef. His mentor helped him improve his technical and scientific culinary skills. Such is his expertise that he has won many culinary awards. His most memorable prize came in 2005, when his team of chefs representing Singapore and Asia won the prestigious Salon Culinaire Mondial competition. "It was a fantastic feeling to compete against nine European countries making European food - and we won it."

For all his success, he isn't complacent. "I keep learning every day," Voon says. "Hard work is very important, especially since I come from a traditional Singaporean family. Singaporeans can't stop improving themselves."

Voon's culinary ideas are considered unusual by many people, but he is unrepentant about daring to be different. He says anyone trying their hand at cooking should use their imagination and experiment - instead of doing what is expected. "Running a kitchen is just like a laboratory really," he says. "Putting ingredients into a dish is like mixing chemicals in a test tube. Always think outside the box. Adopt a free mind."

For Voon, the secret of success in cooking is all about passion. "You really need to love and enjoy cooking."

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