Durham-born and of Hong Kong origin, Jeremy Pang started Chinese cooking institute the School of Wok in London in 2009, after being made redundant from his technology job. Inspired by Singaporean hawker stalls, he aims to show Western cooks how simple Chinese cooking can be with his new book, Chinese Unchopped.
You've just released your new book, Chinese Unchopped. What approach does it take?
The whole idea was to unravel what many see as ‘secrets' of Chinese cooking. People tell me there are so many Chinese ingredients they don't have or don't know about. But there are six or seven basic techniques that will enable you to cook hundreds of dishes. I thought that ‘unchopping' or unravelling this would help. Also, my seven year-old niece asked exactly the same question and after reading the book she said it's because we "slice", not "chop"…
Why launch this book now?
Since 2009 I have learned a lot about my own teaching style and about how you can simplify explanations to help people understand. It's a good time to put things down in black and white.
Can professional chefs learn anything from it?
Anyone can. I have taught executive chefs from top restaurants and hotels, and this book follows the same principle as my classes.
If you only had time to teach a chef one thing about Chinese cooking, what would it be?
How do the professional courses at the School of Wok differ most from the public courses?
Most chefs in the West are trained in what I would call French cooking. Our professional courses help people gain a lot of knowledge in a short time. We give pointers on flavour profiles and in how to make Asian food more exciting.
What's your view on the current Chinese cuisine scene in London and the UK?
We're finally seeing things like steamed buns, dim sum and noodles becoming trendier. I think it still has a long way to go to compete with some other famous non-Chinese cities, such as San Francisco, but we are lucky to have such a great variety.
There is arguably still a perception that some Chinese food is about cheap, MSG-packed noodles. What would your response be?
You can make brilliant, fresh and tasty food without the addition of MSG. It's a controversial topic, but I never add MSG to our food. MSG can be natural, but overuse of any additional chemicals in food is never attractive to me.
Who do you look up to?
Ken Hom has been a massive help to me and continues to support my every step. Chef Kampo, my mentor, is one of the best chefs I have ever met and has the patience of a saint. My [late] dad was a genius in the kitchen.
You have quite a developing media career - how does that fit in with your daily work?
I see media as an important part of business, alongside operations, marketing, creativity and excitement.