Kylie Kwong, seasoned chef and TV celebrity is loved for her Australian-Chinese food and her Australia-on-a-plate approach. We caught up with her recently. Written by Ishay Govender-Ypma for Fine Dining Lover, 15 June 2017.
Sydney-based chef and restaurateur, Kylie Kwong, opened her famed Billy Kwong restaurant in 2000. Since then, she’s appeared regularly on Australian and international cooking programmes and is well known for utilising sustainable, indigenous ingredients.
Kwong says that her approach to cookery which combines Australian native ingredients and traditional Cantonese fare is a direct reflection of her roots as a third-generation Australian and 29th-generation Kwong. She credits her mother who instilled the value and importance of food producers in her from a young age. Kwong adds that one of her “biggest light bulb moments” occurred during a seminal keynote address by René Redzepi in 2010 at the Sydney Opera House, where he covered the “importance of using native ingredients in cooking in order to express a certain time, place, history, culture and flavour of our country.”
What did you experience when you had just opened Billy Kwong?
For me it was a mix of emotions. I was absolutely thrilled to be bringing a dream of opening my own restaurant to life, but the whole concept was daunting also – going from being a chef to a restaurateur and dealing with the realities of running a business. The response from everyone around us at the time was overwhelmingly positive and contributed to making Billy Kwong Surry Hills the energetic and vibrant eating-house that it was. [ed’s note: Billy Kwong Surry Hill closed and re-opened in Potts Point in 2015]
How did your travels through Shanghai and China influence your approach?
My travels through China allowed me the opportunity to really explore my ancestral homeland and visit long-lost Kwong family spread across remote villages. Connecting with my relatives not only added context to my sense of identity, but also to my practice as chef through the swapping of stories, recipes and cooking techniques. It was fascinating to learn about their traditional cooking methods.