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UK’s MasterChef Ping Coombes on Gastro Gurus Podcast: “The Most Valuable Investment Is Connections”

We are here with another episode from our show Gastro Gurus where we have the privilege of speaking with some of Malaysia’s Food and Beverage professionals, ask them questions and learn their stories in hopes to inspire you and share with you a piece of our ever-growing passion for the industry. 

Today we bring you our conversation with Ping Coombes: Chef, Author and Cookery Teacher. Although it feels like we’ve only scratched the surface of the chef’s many accomplishments, today we share with you  her inspiring journey from Ipoh to the UK, a story crowned with success and passion for sharing the joys of beloved home cuisine with the west.

Listen to the Full Interview on our podcast.

Background
Ping comes from the land of authentic food and enticing flavors, grew up in Ipoh and moved to the UK for her college studies where she graduated from Oxford School of Hospitality Management (OSHM). Juggling work and college she still managed to dedicated time to do what she loved most; cook her favorite Malaysian dishes. In 2014 Ping has won UK’s MasterChef S10 Champion of Champions she then embarked on her own  flavorful path in hopes to share the flavors of home in the UK. She started her business Ping At Home where she makes Malaysia Chilled Meals available for purchase. Her dedication to her vision didn’t stop there she is also the Chief Cook at Ping Makan Club, a Malaysian SupperClub and the Chief Teacher at Ping’s Masak Club, a Malaysian cookery school where she conducts her masterclasses. She also published her book “Malaysia” Recipes From a Family Kitchen. Ping is no stranger to the screen, she’s been a guest on many popular talk shows like This Morning and was the guest chef on MasterChef in 2019. She also appeared in the show Malaysian Adventure alongside the celebrity chef John Torode. Her recent adventure however, is something a little more personal. A high school project, if you may, where she opened Bar Micro in Kuala Lumpur with her friends from high school. Ping is a real inspiration and a symbol of hard work and consistency continues to further her path in the industry.

Has it always been your plan to embark on this culinary  journey and become a renowned chef?
Ping explained how when first arriving in the UK she was excited to learn more about their cuisine and culture, trying new western dishes that was only seen on TV back in the day but that didn’t last for long as she quickly started craving for her home flavors and hot Malaysian dishes. “Especially where I live in Bath, ” she says, “Malaysian food is not as available. I started cooking for myself and realized I was pretty good at it.“
“There are many gifted Malaysian chefs,” Ping continues, “I had the opportunity to showcase our cuisine in the UK and I plan to do it to the best of my ability that I can.”

How did you transfer Malaysian cuisine, the cuisine of hot weather to the cold-weathered UK?
Ping explains how in the past Lemongrass and other exotic herbs were rather difficult to find in the west. She continues “Our food has always been adaptable and transitional. And because our food is hot and flavorful it works well whatever the season.” However it’s not a simple cuisine. She says: “Malaysian food is very laborious” Malaysian cuisine requires many hours and sometimes days to prepare. Ping told us how she has a lot of appreciation towards local shops who work very hard to provide our favorite Nasi Lemak dish and other Malaysian dishes on a daily basis.

Let’s talk about Bar Micro in KL, what’s the story behind it? How did it come about?
Simply put, Bar Micro was born from the idea that a group of friends that love to eat and drink together, creating a place that is their little corner where they can have conversations and enjoy each others company. A place that they can call their own.

Check out our feature article on Bar Micro here.

Bar Micro – Mont Kiara

What is your vision for Bar Micro?
The focus in Bar Micro is Cocktails.
Ping tells us how Zero Proof alcohol is very trendy in Europe nowadays as the younger generation seems to be more aware and more keen to be healthy while still enjoying flavorful cocktails. “We felt that non ALC (non alcoholic) would reach its potential in Asia soon and we want to be the pioneers for it.” she continues, “Results are almost undetectable. Non ALC cocktails are made with the same care we put into our alcoholic drinks.” She adds, “People provide non ALC as an afterthought. For us we take it just as seriously as alcoholic drinks”

Could you share a piece of advice for aspiring chefs who look up to you?
“Utilize your youth and get out there and see the world. And “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Do you have a favorite quote?
“Don’t compare my page: 100 to your page: 1”
It’s so easy to see people’s successes and overlook their journey and their hard work, especially in the age of Instagram. Ping adds, “So please don’t just look at their success, look at the whole picture. Be true to what you do, work hard and be consistent about it.”

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