Dim sum delights
‘Dumbo’ dish wins first prize in HK chef contest
Felix Leung Hin-wa was named the victor of the Dim Sum Talented Chef Competition 2013 at The Peninsula Hong Kong, winning a cash prize of HK$25,000 and a two-year apprenticeship programme at The Peninsula Hong Kong, The Peninsula Shanghai and The Peninsula Beijing.
However, it was never Leung’s intention to make a career out of dim sum. He initially hoped to simply make a living out of it, but ended up falling in love with the craft. “After finishing Form Five I didn’t have a plan at all. I worked as a restaurant delivery boy, making HK$4,000 a month. I couldn’t live on that, so when my father told me a dim sum apprentice can get around HK$10,000, I joined immediately,” he says.
The more Leung learns about dim sum, the more he loves it. “I am curious and passionate about dim sum. When I try one, I think about ways to improve it. This is how I came up [with] my dish for the competition, the ‘Dumbo’ deep-fried elephant-shaped dim sum, which has a mushroom and meat stuffing. I first ate a similar dim sum at a restaurant. I liked the shape but the taste was less than outstanding, so I decided to improve it,” he says.
Creativity is the signature of Leung’s dim sum. “I love trying new things and coming up with ideas to improve them. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen mixing and matching different ingredients to create new dim sum,” he says.
Now, with two years’ experience of making dim sum, Leung is preparing to take his career to another level by joining The Peninsula. He will spend one year in Hong Kong and six months each in Beijing and Shanghai.
In Hong Kong, Leung will have the chance to work with Frankie Tang, executive chef at Spring Moon – The Peninsula Hong Kong’s Cantonese restaurant – and Henry Fong, dim sum chef at The Peninsula Hong Kong.
“During [Leung’s] two-year apprenticeship, programme, he will work with the hotel’s Chinese restaurant dim sum team and assist in the preparation process of all dim sum for the restaurant’s lunch session,” says The Peninsula Hotels’ dim sum ambassador, Yip Wing-wah, one of the contest’s judges. “After his training, we hope he will also be able to create innovative dim sum dishes for our guests to enjoy.”
Leung says he is looking forward to learning from the masters at The Peninsula Hotels. “I think it will be an eye-opening experience. I will get to see many kinds of dim sum that I have never tried before. The two-year internship will be a boost to my career,” he says.
The contest’s first runner-up was Lawrence Law Siu-long, 21, from the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute, and the second runner-up was Karen Chan Yin, 18, of Our Lady’s College. Chan said she was nervous at first but was very happy about coming third.
Yip thinks that the incoming generation of chefs is not as interested in the dim sum field as previous generations, and that it is not easy to recruit chefs who want to become dim sum masters. One of the goals of the competition, therefore, is to promote the art of dim sum.
“Through this competition, we hope to revive the interest in dim sum cooking among those who are passionate in cooking and thus encourage them to consider choosing dim sum cooking as their career,” Yip says. “They are the future of Hong Kong’s crafting culinary success. We hope to recruit those who are young and have the passion, talent and creativity to join the Peninsula family.”
Another judge, The Peninsula Hotel’s group executive chef Florian Trento, was impressed with the contestants’ skills. “We look for competence and confidence in the planning and execution of work, the way the candidate cuts, cooks and assembles the dishes, the way they mix ingredients, and their serving skills,” he says. “They are all very green and have never had any formal training. This shows you that with the right attitude and passion, a lot can be achieved.”
The competition was open to people aged 22 or below and contestants had to go through three rounds. In the first round, contestants made a dim sum dish and submitted a photo of it, along with a recipe and the story behind it. Ten shortlisted contestants who made it to the second round prepared two dim sum items, both pre-set by chef at The Peninsula Hong Kong, and attended a workshop organised by the hotel to learn about career opportunities and cooking techniques. In the final round, which took place on 16 July, the five finalists were challenged to prepare a dim sum set lunch.