Pioneer – the best word to describe culinary extraordinaire, Chef Justin Quek. Throughout his illustrious career, Chef Quek has charted many firsts as one of Asia’s foremost and finest masters of French cuisine. Today, he runs a food and beverage (F&B) consultancy firm in Hong Kong and he is also the chef-owner of a newly-opened and highly-acclaimed bistro aptly called Just In Bistro & Wine Bar in Taipei.
Chef Quek began his culinary career at Mandarin Oriental Singapore and The Oriental Bangkok. A man with a vision and the determination to succeed, he travelled abroad and found himself working in the kitchens of the crème de la crème of French cuisine all over France. He worked for Roland Mazere (Le Centenaire) and Jean Bardet (Tours), gaining immeasurable knowledge and most definitely, acquiring an immense amount of skills that he has put to excellent use until today. He was also trained at L’oasis in Cote d’Azur and Hotel de Crillon in Paris. In addition, he had the privilege to work for Michel Roux, Jr at the famed Le Gavroche in London and Waterside Inn in Bray.
Having had first-hand training and experiences in French cuisine in France and England, Chef Quek returned to Singapore a better chef. In 1992, he was appointed the personal chef of the French Embassy, making him the first Singaporean to be given such a grand opportunity. The French is famous for their cuisine and they are absolutely proud of their culinary prowess. Beyond doubt, this made it an even grander opportunity. During his time at the French embassy, the ambassador had to go into the kitchen to confirm that it was really a Singaporean chef who cooked for him because his cooking was authentically and genuinely French.
Further proof that he is a pioneer in everything he does, Chef Quek was also the first Asian to be invited to participate in Lufthansa’s Star Chefs programme. When the World Gourmet Summit Awards Of Excellence was first introduced, he was the recipient of the first ever Chef Of The Year award. At that time, he was still with Les Amis – the restaurant he established in 1994 with his good friend, Ignatius Chan. Long after Chef Quek left the restaurant, Les Amis is still the shining beacon of Singapore’s fine dining scene. Not only is it one of Singapore’s best, undoubtedly, it is also one of Asia’s best. And what is more remarkable is the fact that Les Amis is now one of the world’s best too.
For someone to not know this culinary genius is something that is utterly incomprehensible. Chef Quek is the living proof that with hard work and sheer determination, anyone can be successful. He is not just a pioneer, he is a true genius.
Interview with Justin Quek
What does being in the World Gourmet Summit Awards Of Excellence Hall Of Fame mean to you?
It’s truly an honour and I’m proud to be included among these illustrious Hall Of Famers. All I can say is that I will still keep working hard and be as humble as possible. This is just a mere testament and recognition of all the hard work I’ve done so far. I still have a long way to go. And I will keep on working hard as before.
Who / What inspires you?
Everyone around me. I observe the people around me, taking into consideration their mannerism, their behaviour and their attitude towards life. If you pay attention to them, you’ll be able to learn a lot and this actually inspires me. Because from my observation, I get to understand these people. For the record, I also admire many of the chefs from around the world. They have taught me, shared with me immeasurable knowledge and inspired me to be who I am today.
Do you have a quote that you live?
Always work hard and never give up. Learn from the best and always never take for granted any advice given to you. Better yourself through your mistakes. That’s what I believe in.
What advice would you give to the younger generation who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Have a good foundation, get a good education first if you ever want to pursue a career in the culinary world. Be open to criticism, that’s when you learn the most. Through the mistakes that you made, if you learn from it, it’ll most definitely make you a better person. And finally, go out and try other chefs’ cuisines. Learn from them because if you don’t, how would you be able to improve and most importantly, how would you know how your food tastes like compared to others?
What other cuisines would you like to master?
Everyday is like a new learning experience for me. I don’t really have a set cuisine skill that I want to master but I always believe in absorbing whatever information and skills I can. In life, there’s no such thing as the end of learning. Everyday is a new day, and there’ll always be new things to learn. Always have an open mind