PETALING JAYA: For many young Malaysians, cooking a simple meal seems like a near impossible task. Chopping, dicing, sautéing, baking is enough to make anyone go insane.
For others, it’s more a question of why slave away in the kitchen and sweat over the stove when you can get yourself a decent meal at a restaurant? Or call delivery?
But in reality, cooking is a means of expressing one’s own creativity. It’s also amazing just what you can come up with when you put your mind and your hands to the task.
This is what Anna Wee Kim Choo aims to help bring out in Malaysians, to help them become restaurant-grade chefs in their own homes.
A restauranteur since 1998, Anna has lots of experience in the competitive F&B industry.
Having put her culinary skills to good use in restaurants, clubhouses, international schools and universities, there is no question as to her range of talents.
Now retired from the scene, she has instead founded Kim’s Kitchen Cooking Studio to impart the many lessons she learnt from her restaurateur years.
Teaching from her home in Petaling Jaya, Anna prefers keeping things small-scale, as the time for large commercial operations is over for her.
As FMT Lifestyle sat down with her, she was already preparing to teach a small class of three, having beforehand prepared and laid out ingredients for laksa lemak, otak-otak and kuih koci.
A Malaccan of Peranakan descent, Anna explained that before she even started out in the F&B business, she was already an old hand at cooking.
“We grew up knowing about food all the time…I liked cooking since I was a young girl. But I had never thought about turning it into a business.”
Stepping into the corporate world for some time, Anna found that her line of work felt somewhat stifling to her imagination.
“It’s something I don’t derive satisfaction from; where I could not apply my creativity.”
Together with her husband, in 1998, Anna set out to open her first restaurant, specialising in fusion food, and she has never looked back.
“I find that, through cooking, I can be creative. I express myself through creating menus, fusing my Nyonya heritage into Western cooking, which is also a forte of mine,” she said.
“It’s very therapeutic for me and normally when I do things, I take my time. I can apply my creativity and I just enjoy the time alone preparing stuff, without rushing.”
After hanging up her apron in 2017, she decided the following the year that the skills she had acquired over her career ought to be shared with others.
“I started Kim’s Kitchen Culinary Studio because I felt like whatever skills and experience that I have gained over the years, I would like to transfer it over to housewives. So, that they can cook and make meals more than special for their families.”
Anna has no intention of going commercial with all the headaches that brings, so her classes are small affairs, and she charges very little for them.
They start at about RM80 and the most she charges is RM180, and that’s for a lesson with roasted lamb, pastas, salads and soups.
During her classes, she teaches her students new cooking, preparation and decorating skills, with a themed menu for each class.
She prepares well beforehand, gathering the ingredients for her planned dishes two to three hours prior to her class, before whipping up something in about 20 minutes.
“What knowledge I gained in the restaurants, I transfer them over to my students to use, so that they can cook it at home for the family. It’s a cooking class seasoned with love.”
For Anna, there are criteria for something to be considered good food. “Good food comes in freshness, taste, in the balance of spiciness, saltiness, sweetness and acidity.”
“When everything is just so balanced, you know that it’s really good food.”
According to her, passion is most important when it comes to cooking. “When people cook, you can see how much they put into their food from the heart. People can just follow a recipe, but there’s no passion to it.”
“If your passion drives you in what you’re doing, you won’t mind the hard work, you won’t mind washing the floors, you won’t mind cleaning and doing everything on your own. If passion drives you, you can do anything.”