The culinary influence of Chef Tong’s mother


Chinese cuisine is sometimes described as the “Mother of Asian Cuisine”: it’s one of the world’s most ancient gastronomies, and its influence has spread across mountains and jungle, rivers and cities to impress upon the rest of the world with its complex flavours and diverse ingredients.

Its cultural authenticity is recognised even today, with many early cooking techniques passed down from generation to generation – often mother to child – with little to no modern modifications.

Food is at the heart of Chinese culture, and its importance is celebrated every day in most Chinese homes. For many people, this positive relationship with food was ingrained in them from an early age.

For Chef Tong, Executive Head Chef of Hakkasan, it is his mother and his grandmother who shaped his early fond memories of cooking, and who eventually influenced his decision to become a chef.

“When I was seven, our family was very poor. We’d go to the mountains to collect firewood every day, and we’d use this for cooking at home. My grandmother would cook the most delicious food; she had such a talent, and she passed that talent on to my mother.

When I looked back at that difficult time of my life, I knew then that I had decided to become a chef so that I could repay the favour and cook for my mother and grandmother.”

While many chefs cook food reminiscent of their childhoods, not many chefs can create dishes based on recipes reminiscent of their mother’s childhood, or their grandmother’s childhood. This illustrious history is a gift to many Chinese chefs; many of the modern recipes we know and love are based on recipes that have been tested and perfected over centuries.

“Many years have now passed, and although my mother and grandmother are no longer with me, I still feel gratitude to them for the success I have achieved. Moreover, they’ve influenced the rest of my family: of my four brothers and sisters, three of them are working as successful chefs.

I never forget my original dream – to cook for my mother and grandmother – even though I’ve experienced many challenges during my years as a chef. It encourages me and helps me to succeed.”

With the approach of Mother’s Day in the United Kingdom, Hakkasan is offering a wide range of signature experiences available as gifts, including Dim Sum Sundays, Hakkasan Hanway Place’s celebration of the ritual of dim sum, an ancient tradition rooted in family reunions and get togethers.