Lee Yong Xiang, Simpsons

The talented 22-year-old from Simpsons restaurant, Lee Yong Xiang, recently won the British Culinary Federation’s Young Chef of the Year title, beating 13 young cooks representing the UK’s top restaurants in the final

Tell us about your cooking

I would describe it as quite unique as I’m Asian and most of my cooking style has an Asian influence and obviously a Western influence as well. I like to bring together different types of cooking techniques from various cultures.

How did you become a chef?

I was trained in Malaysia where I did a diploma for two years. I then arrived in the UK to study for my degree which took three years and since then I’ve trained at Simpsons. Ever since I was young, I was influenced quite a lot by Jamie Oliver – as a chef he’s known world-wide, including in Malaysia.  I like that his cooking style is homely, comfort food which inspired me especially as a young kid not knowing how or what to cook. Looking at his dishes reminds me of how much I liked cooking back then as a child.

What do you eat when at home?

I eat a lot of Asian food at home and occasionally Western. Even though I’ve been here for three years, I still miss my Asian dishes which tend to centre around rice.

Who’s the best chef in the world and why? And who’s the best in Brum?

There’s so many good chefs that it’s hard to say who’s the best in the world but a chef who does inspire me is a French pastry chef called Cédric Grolet whose desserts have his own unique style.

The best chef in Birmingham has to be Luke Tipping – he has inspired and influenced me a lot when it comes to Western cooking.

Share a cooking tip

Try not to burn anything! When it comes to cooking rice there is a certain ratio you need to get right, as in Asia we cook without using weighing scales

What was your favourite food as a kid?

It was almost like a soup which featured pork cooked in Chinese herbs and spices. It isn’t something you find in the UK but it’s a very heart-warming soup that I still like to cook at home.

Food heaven and food hell?

My food heaven is street food. My food hell is food that is not cooked properly.

What’s the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?

I’m not a big fan of raw seafood or insects, which are used in a lot of South East Asian dishes. 

If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?

If I wasn’t a chef, I would be working in the finance industry.