Top Chef winner Kristen Kish chows down on chicken rice
Celebrity Chow with reality TV show Top Chef winner Kristen Kish
Korean-American chef Kristen Kish has nothing but praise for Hainanese chicken rice after trying it for the first time in Singapore.
The 32-year-old winner of the 10th season of US reality TV cooking show Top Chef was in town earlier this month to helm a ticketed cooking event at Wildfire Burgers at 313@Somerset.
At the recommendation of a "local friend", she went to Hainanese Delicacy, an eatery at Far East Plaza.
Her verdict? A big thumbs up.
"Shockingly, the steamed chicken is cold. I didn't expect that," Kish told M, as she tucked into her hearty lunch, which was served with vegetables, braised eggs, chicken liver and gizzard.
"But the broth is amazing. That's where all the seasoning is and where all the flavours are. The combination of warm broth and warm rice makes this really nice."
Born in Seoul, Kish was adopted when she was just four months old by a family in Michigan.
Singapore is the first country in Asia she has visited.
She said: "I love how clean chicken rice is. Beautiful, simple, classic and well-seasoned. That's actually what I strive most in my cooking style."
With a laugh, Kish, who trained at prestigious culinary academy Le Cordon Bleu, added: "I'm getting inspiration whenever and wherever I try new, different foods.
"Right now, my wheels are already turning. If I were to deconstruct this dish, I'd put it all in a bowl!"
What other local hawker dishes have you tried?
We went to ABC Brickworks Market and tried everything from pork to noodles to kaya toast. Kaya toast is by far one of my favourites. I also tried laksa, which was incredible.
Normally, I'm not a hot weather person, but there's something about being in Singapore, sitting outdoors and eating a hot steaming bowl of noodles that's really charming. I'm embracing the experience.
Are you in touch with your Korean heritage, especially its cuisine?
(When I was) growing up in Michigan, my mum introduced me to Korean food and culture through kimchi festivals.
From young, I had an affinity for the pungency and fermented flavour of Korean cuisine. As I grew older, I moved to Boston and I was able to travel to Los Angeles where I explored Koreatown.
I still don't know a ton about Korean food but so long as it tastes good, I will eat it. I hope to go back to Seoul one day. It is a priority. I have to be emotionally ready though. It will be an intense trip for sure and I'm very excited.
What is your best dish?
What I do best is classic French technique with influences from Italy and little bits of my travels around the world.
For example, I can guarantee you that when I'm back in the US, I'll do my own spin of this (chicken rice).
You are one of the three female winners in 13 seasons of Top Chef. Are male chefs better?
That's a myth. Yes, the majority of professional chefs today are male, as it's a male-dominated industry. But are they better? No. It has nothing to do with gender but your skill level and talent as a cook.
Everyone faces their fair share of hurdles, struggles and difficulties in this industry. Once you get into the kitchen, you really do forget what your gender is.
You just cook.
What made you become a professional chef? Was there a turning point?
After I graduated from high school, I was in university for a year majoring in international business and economics. I was terrible at it, failed nearly every subject. I even went into a weird depression stage.
My mum was the one who planted the idea in me. She said, "You've had this passion for cooking for a long time, why don't you go to culinary school?"
That was when light bulbs went off in my head.
I never thought I could cook for a living. I thought I had to get into business and get a certain type of car, a certain type of suit. But the minute I knew I could make a future out of cooking, I went full force into it.