July 11, 2007 / 12:51 PM / 11 years ago

World Chefs: Patrick Lin says a good knife is essential

TORONTO (Reuters Life!) - Chef Patrick Lin has returned to Canada after a stint in his native Hong Kong to take over as executive chef at the Toronto restaurant Senses.

Previously the executive chef of Hemispheres and prior to that restaurant chef at Truffles in the Four Seasons hotel, Lin took up a culinary career aged 20, working evenings in the kitchen of Hong Kong’s Regent hotel, unpaid.

Nearly three years later, he was hired in his first position as a cook and in 1990, Lin was hired at Truffles in Toronto but has moved back and forth between Hong Kong several times. He spoke to Reuters about his kitchen:

Q: Who was your main influence?

A: “My dad and my mom were great cooks. They did home style cooking. My parents come from a province (in China) rich with seafood, like Vancouver or Prince Edward Island, so when they cooked, I came to learn. They poached fish, and then they cooled it down, and they had a dipping sauce, with yellow bean paste. It was wonderful home style cooking. They opened my mind.”

Q: How and when did you start to cook professionally?

A: “At age 20, when I started (at the Regent Hotel) I was not in the kitchen right away, I was the office guy. And I found the kitchen so interesting. One day I talked to the director, and I said, can I do a training course? It was volunteer, no pay, and I started right away the next week. In the daytimes, I worked in my office job, 9-5, and then had dinner and 6-10:30, my training in the kitchen, long days, six days a week. I did that for two years and ten months.”

Q: Who are your mentors?

A: “One is Gray Kunz, he has a restaurant, Cafe Gray (and also Grayz), in New York. He joined the Regent (in the 1980’s). Also my general manager at the Regent ... Rudi Greiner. He gave me a lot of inspiration. He gave me so much confidence, and career-wise, he gave me advice.”

Q: Do you have a favorite ingredient in the kitchen?

A: “Yes, I love seafood. I put a lot of effort into seafood, to not overcook it, and to make it more interesting. A piece of fish, if you overcook it, it’s not good. It’s about control. When the pan is too hot, you get the burnt flavors right away, and when the pan is not hot enough, the juice in the fish does not come out. I enjoy being challenged.”

Q: Is there a piece of equipment you consider essential?

A: “A knife. You can’t work without a knife. You can’t learn new skills without a knife. Everything you need is done while you are holding a knife. Ideas come, and then you cut. A knife is so important. How can I trust people’s cooking skills? Not on the stove. It’s how to cut. How to portion the food.”

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