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Tastemakers Ask A Chef: What Food Can't You Live Without?

Ask A Chef: What Food Can't You Live Without?

Ask A Chef: What Food Can't You Live Without?
By Tien Chew
February 23, 2018
Darren Chin, the man behind the successful DC Restaurant in TTDI, talks to us about what he likes to eat when he has time to spare and what foods he can't live without over lunch at his go-to Thai restaurant.

1/9 Darren Chin

Photo: Courtesy of DC Restaurant
Photo: Courtesy of DC Restaurant

This passionate chef has been making a name for himself over the last few years as one of Malaysia's most brilliant cooks, with his place DC Restaurant consistently earning high praise for serving inventive and delectable modern French foods. 

Not too long after his restaurant first opened, we paid the restaurant a visit and left blown away by an incredible experience. Continuing to improve, Chin's restaurant even set the stage for last year's Hennessy Odyssey, creating an unforgettable meal that proved to be one of the highlight meals of 2017.

Married to a Thai national, he fuses his love and knowledge of Malaysia, Thai and French foods into a modern cuisine that combines classical French and modernist techniques to create his own cuisine that has earned its fanbase.

Because of his contributions to the Malaysian dining scene, we awarded Chef Chin the Best Independent Restaurant at our inaugural T.Dining Best Restaurants 2018 event last year.

2/9 Why Do You Like Coming To This Restaurant? 

Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler
Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler

"I've known this place for over the past 10 years. They started out as a grocery store and they've slowly expanded. It's our (he and his wife Nana) go-to place to come and have a simple yet tasty meal that's very satisfactory when we're looking for something quick and easy," says Chin.

Chin goes on to explain that Frame Thai is one of the only places in PJ where he and his spouse can eat a truly authentic Thai meal. While a better part of his time is spent in the kitchen of his restaurant creating epic culinary odysseys, Chin likes to keep his orders simple when at Frame Thai, often ordering a plate of fried rice with a sunny side egg on top or pad see ew (stir fried soy sauce noodles).

3/9 What Do You Like To Eat When You Have Time To Relax?

 Mixed grilled meats greet you at Frame Thai's entrance | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler
Mixed grilled meats greet you at Frame Thai's entrance | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler

"If my wife and I have more time in the day, we would take a drive down to Kuala Selangor to have really nice local live seafood," says Chin. "You'll find many Chinese restaurants along the coast and we'll order anything from the tank, we enjoy that."

One of the chef's favourite comfort foods is a beloved Malaysian dish that really shouldn't surprise anyone – chicken rice. 

"There's just one nearby called James' chicken rice (also known as Choon Yien Restaurant). I have to come extremely early and I think their chicken rice is really great," he confesses. "You know how they give Michelin stars to hawker centres in Singapore, I think if they came here he deserves something."

According to Chin, James' chicken rice doesn't only have chicken that's roasted really well, they also serve a mean crispy pork with crunch. To top it off, the chilli sauce is in his own words, "very good". These three elements makes it a win in his books.

It's always great to see when one chef praises another as a fan of their work.

4/9 What Food Can't You Live Without?

Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler
Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler

"Just off the top of my head, I would have to say my dad's cooking," says Chin. "That's something I grew up eating as a kid and that taste is very distinct to me. One of my favourite dishes from him is stewed pork chop with fried potatoes and onions topped with gravy".

"When I eat that with white rice it brings back a lot of fond memories for me as a kid. I would rank my dad's cooking number 1," he says fondly.

5/9 How About Snacks?

Thai sweets, snacks and desserts for sale at Frame Thai | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler
Thai sweets, snacks and desserts for sale at Frame Thai | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler

"I'm not a snacker and I don't like desserts very much. Maybe some fruits at the end of a meal but that's about it," says Chin.

While potato chips, chocolate chip cookies and other nibbles may not be on his radar, the outspoken chef does have some weaknesses.

"The only vice that I have is alcohol. I like to drink but when consuming alcohol gets directly converted to visceral fat in your body," he admits with a counterpoint.

Chin also abstaints from having dishes like nasi lemak bumbung and hokkien mee, viewing them as guilty pleasures.

Also read: Follow T.Dining Malaysia on Instagram for your daily dose of great food

6/9 What's A Typical Day Like For You?

Thai omelette | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler
Thai omelette | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler

"I wake up in the morning, have my coffee, eat something really simple like oat biscuits or a granola bar," he discloses. "I'm a bit cautious about what I eat as I try not to consume too many calories."

Here's something you may not know about the life of a successful celebrated chef – they don't have regular diets due to their work.

"I don't eat after 4PM because it would affect my taste buds during service and that's a fact," reveals Chin. "If I eat at say 6PM, my palate won't be very accurate because I feel full and I won't be able to find the tastes I'm looking for in a dish." 

While Chin tries to have three meals a day, it's a challenge for him due to the nature of his work. After the last table finishes up and leaves, only then will he dig in for dinner with his staff. Because of this, he often sleeps at 2AM to 3AM.

7/9 What Do You Hope To Achieve As A Chef?

Steamed fish with lime and chilli | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler
Steamed fish with lime and chilli | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler

"At this moment, the mission is to be recognised. We need to let the world know what DC is capable of doing. We may have carved a name for ourselves dometiscally, but what's lacking is worldwide recognition," says Chin. 

"A lot of restaurants have failed and they are left forgotten. I don't want to end up like that, it's my biggest fear," he adds candidly. 

8/9 When You Cook And Create Food, What Part Of You Are You Expressing?

Clear pork tom yum | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler
Clear pork tom yum | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler

"The hardest thing to do when you create a great dish is to exercise restraint. In any craft, to come to a certain 'zen' moment is hard to execute," says Chin.

Discipline and control are two equally important traits for a chef, and arguably any creative, when aiming to express and bring to life the vision in their mind.

"I want to give to diners my life's work, my cuisine," says Chin. "I want to show them that this is how I cook it and this is how I do it, not in an arrogant or egoistical manner, but in a way where it shows that my food is how I would like to express myself on a plate."

 

9/9 Do You Think It’s Hard For Your Friends To Eat Out With You Given Your Palate?

Darren Chin and his wife Nana | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler
Darren Chin and his wife Nana | Photo: Tien Chew/Malaysia Tatler

"I'm a bit picky with the people I choose to eat with, because the time that I have to eat is also about conversation and not just about the food," says Chin. "It's about company, it's to stop and not think about food and I think that's very important in life."

"But, of course it's hard. They always tell me I'm too picky and I always end up doing all the ordering," he jokes.

Read what other chefs have to say: James Won of Enfin | Carrie Scully of Tiki Taka

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Tastemakers Chef darren chin DC restaurant French Cuisine Interview

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