JEREMY PANG comes from three generations of Chinese chefs, whose grandfather owned and operated his own Chinese pastry shop in Chinatown in the 1960s.
After graduating as a Biochemical Engineer and working for various companies, Jeremy went to the Le Cordon Blue Institute, where he had the opportunity to reinforce his food knowledge and cooking techniques. After working in several restaurants and spending time as a travel journalist in South East Asia, in autumn 2009 he established the School of Wok in London, a mobile cookery school specializing in teaching Eastern cuisine to students in the comfort of their own homes.
Why did you decide to become a chef?
I had always loved cooking but after my father died and I simultaneously was made redundant in my marketing job, something clicked and I decided it was time to explore my passion for cooking on a professional level.
Over the years Jeremy’s expertise in the Chinese food industry has continued to gain recognition with recent publicity and reviews in the Sunday Times, Delicious Magazine Online, BBC Good Food, ES Magazine and many more.
Who has been your biggest influence?
My father. He loved food, loved cooking and really led the way when it came to exploring new flavours as a kid. He would always make us try to guess what ingredients went into a dish whenever we tried something we liked.
What are the main difficulties in Chinese cuisine? What differentiates from other cuisines?
I think there are two areas in which people struggle when learning how to cook Chinese cuisine at home. The first is preparation, I cannot stress the importance of having everything well prepped and ready to go, especially when it comes to stir-frying. Taking the time to make sure all your ingredients are chopped to the same size, your meat is well marinated, etc makes all the difference. The second is thinking about balancing flavours, textures, and colours when cooking. Unlike a lot of Western cuisines, Chinese cuisine involves multiple dishes being served at the same time, rather than just one plate of food. So it’s important to think about the variety in order to keep the palate engaged and excited.
Jeremy attributes his love of food to his father, who was keen for him to experience exciting flavours and exotic foods while he was a young boy.
Jeremy Pang is head chef and founder of School of Wok
In autumn 2009 Jeremy decided to follow his heart and bring the world of Chinese cuisine to fellow food enthusiasts. He established School of Wok in London, a mobile cookery school specialising in teaching Eastern cuisine to students in the comfort of their own homes. Following the success of his mobile kitchen and help from sponsors, School of Wok opened its first permanent professional kitchen in May 2012 in Covent Garden, a well-thought-out location near London’s Chinatown and surrounded by some of the finest restaurants in the capital. Since then, the School has gone from strength to strength, winning The British Cookery School Awards in 2014, and teaching over 60,000 students the secrets of Asian cuisines – right in the heart of London.
What are your favorite ingredients to cook with and why?
During summer, at this time of year when the weather is so beautiful it’s less about one ingredient in particular, and more about choosing items that are fresh, seasonal and vibrant, so they can be easily prepared with little effort, or cooked over an open flame outside. I also happen to love wok cooking over my own home bbq.
Do you have your signature dish?
That depends on who you ask! I have a few dishes my dad loved, that I am particularly attached to and enjoy both cooking and eating; Ginger and Spring Onion Crab and Crispy Pork Belly for instance. But I also have a few classic stir-fry dishes that are well-loved at my school; School of Wok, and then there are those dishes (like Chilli Beef) which got me started back when I was teaching customers to cook in their homes.
School of Wok founder, books author and TV chef Jeremy Pang comes from a long line of chefs and culinary enthusiasts.
What tips can you give for healthy Chinese cooking?
Think about balance; make sure you have at least as much veg as you do the meat on your plate. – When stir-frying make sure to add your oil bit by bit, you probably need less than you think! – When it comes to sauces, a light touch is always best. Especially when working with some of the fermented sauces and pastes, you need less than you think as some of these can have lots of sugar. You want to enhance, not overpower your ingredients. Best to remember you can always add more but you can’t take it away.
Jeremy’s ability to bringing food to life with his catching and relaxed approach has helped to fuel a dynamic specialist cookery school, develop delicious authentic recipes, and create innovative teaching techniques and equipment that are taking the culinary world by storm.
Nowadays a lot of cuisines are living a period between tradition and innovation. Is this also happening to Chinese cuisine?
I think as a whole we are becoming much more food savvy and global, thankfully well past the point of the initial ‘fusion’ food, we saw in the ‘90s. After fusion took a wrong turn people went back to single-origin/regional cooking and started again- so I think it’s all evolving now from a place of knowledge rather than purely from an experimental perspective. There are also lots of new young people who have grown up with more access to food education (tv, magazines, websites, social media, YouTube videos, etc), other than just their parents or grandparents- so they are able to use their own background and really take things forward in a new way.
What other cuisines do you like?
My wife and her family come from an Indian background and I really appreciate all of the spice and flavour layering that goes on in that type of cuisine! Like my father encouraged me to do as a child, I am constantly trying to pick out and guess all of the different ingredients that go into some of the more complex curries and dishes.
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Pang
A special thanks to Adrienne Katz Kennedy