Loh Yi Jun trained as a chemical engineer, but now experiments with fusion cuisine. He runs a blog junandtonic.com and a weekly podcast, breaking bread. In this episode, I speak to him about going through culinary school and then staging in one of the world's best restaurants.
Yi Jun (instagram: @yijunjunn; http://junandtonic.com) is a chemical engineer turned chef, food writer, and podcaster. At 23, right after graduating from Cambridge, he took a plunge and dived headfirst into the world of food—signing up for culinary school in London and Paris, working at the farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, and now running his own food blog and podcast, Breaking Bread. His Saveur-nominated blog—Jun & Tonic—explores the quirky side of Asian food and cooking. His articles on food have also featured on Food52 and Taste.
Check out Yi Jun’s food blog here and his podcast here.
3 things I learned
- It was just so fun to learn more about the world of food and high-end restaurants. I learned about the French kitchen brigade system, the trends in cooking (molecular gastronomy and the farm-to-table movement) and what a chef’s life is like on a day-to-day basis.
- Working as a chef is far more difficult than I imagined. Think 14 hour days (11am-1am) all the time on your feet, half hour dinner breaks and not seeing your friends because you have to work on the weekends. There’s also a culture of starging, where you work as an intern at a renowned restaurant and get food and lodging provided but earn nothing / a minimal stipend. Yi Jun’s time at Blue Hill taught him loads, but also made him realise that he did not want to work as a chef.
- Yi Jun made a great point about kindness in the midst of stressful situations. Whilst tempers often flared in the high stress environment of a kitchen, the people who made the biggest impact on him were those who approached tense situations with a high degree of kindness. I’m reminded of how lots of other professions are stressful too, but it’s the people who can keep their cool and keep being kind that command the most respect.
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