LOH YI JUN (PART 1)
Life as a Chef
Yi Jun (instagram: @jun.and.tonic; http://junandtonic.com) is a chemical engineer turned chef, food writer, and podcaster. At 23, right after graduating from Cambridge, he took a plunge and dived headfirst into the world of food—signing up for culinary school in London and Paris, working at the farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, and now running his own food blog and podcast, Breaking Bread. His Saveur-nominated blog—Jun & Tonic—explores the quirky side of Asian food and cooking. His articles on food have also featured on Food52 and Taste.
On this episode, I find out more about the world of gourmet food as Yi Jun shares his experiences going through culinary school and then starging (interning) at a 3 Michelin star restaurant.
3 Things I’ve Learned
- It was just so fun to learn more about the world of food and high-end restaurants. I learned about the French kitchen brigade system, the trends in cooking (molecular gastronomy and the farm-to-table movement) and what a chef’s life is like on a day-to-day basis.
- Working as a chef is far more difficult than I imagined. Think 14 hour days (11am-1am) all the time on your feet, half hour dinner breaks and not seeing your friends because you have to work on the weekends. There’s also a culture of staging, where you work as an intern at a renowned restaurant and get food and lodging provided but earn nothing / a minimal stipend. Yi Jun’s time at Blue Hill taught him loads, but also made him realise that he did not want to work as a chef.
- Yi Jun made a great point about kindness in the midst of stressful situations. Whilst tempers often flared in the high stress environment of a kitchen, the people who made the biggest impact on him were those who approached tense situations with a high degree of kindness. I’m reminded of how lots of other professions are stressful too, but it’s the people who can keep their cool and keep being kind that command the most respect.
Here are links to some of the references we make in the podcast:
- Le Cordon Bleu culinary school https://www.cordonbleu.edu/london/home/en
- Coq au vin https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coq_au_vin
- Bouillabaisse https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bouillabaisse
- Yi Jun’s blog post on making shao rou (roast pork) https://junandtonic.com/blog/2017/6/14/secrets-to-crispy-pork-belly-skin
- The 5 ‘mother sauces’ of french cuisine https://food52.com/blog/12209-the-five-mother-sauces-every-cook-should-know
- *Keeping oil and vinegar bound https://www.chatelaine.com/recipes/chatelainekitchen/tips-for-making-homemade-vinaigrette/
- More about molecular gastronomy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molecular_gastronomy and https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCoAr7VruMEIRCWpYY1LGO2w
- More about the farm-to-table movement: https://upserve.com/restaurant-insider/history-farm-table-movement/
- El Bulli restaurant https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Bulli
- Blue Hill restaurant https://www.bluehillfarm.com/dine/stone-barns
- Dan Barber, Blue Hill and the farm-to-table movement https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/09/dan-barber-20-years-from-now-youll-be-eating-fast-food-crickets
- The Third Plate book https://amzn.to/2YV7Am3
- French kitchen brigade hierarchy https://jobs.morningadvertiser.co.uk/article/kitchen-hierarchy-different-chef-titles-explained/
- Food52 https://food52.com/
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