Chef Kenneth Ip: Nest Brisbane Flies In

From the archives: This is from our original site, MyCityLife, posted back on 29 January 2015

Every five star trained chef aspires to be ‘the cook of kings and the king of cooks’, and the steps they take to get there are indeed weighted and mighty. From coping with extreme pressure, to reacting well in high force situations with divine powers for the future and careful planning and preparation: the marks of a distinguished five-star chef are many.

Chef Kenneth Ip comes to Nest Brisbane at Hotel Jen with more than 40 years of skills to his blade and plenty of kitchen experience under his chef whites. Having commenced his apprenticeship in some of Asia’s grandest five-star hotels, Kenneth grew up in a very foodie-loving family, surrounded by traditional recipes passed down through generations. Since his arrival from Hong Kong during the 1980s, Kenneth has travelled a few culinary paths, his background in five-star hotels and resorts a hefty foundation to his talents.

From Melbourne to Canberra and Brisbane, bakery empires to hotels, resorts and country clubs, an artist in pastry and an ingrained ingenuity for Asian techniques borne across the generations, Kenneth has crafted quite the culinary arsenal for a simple food philosophy that loves to produce good food. Food and cooking has always been an important part of Kenneth’s culture: his love for authentic, fresh spices, fresh, seasonal produce and quality ingredients unite with years of experience, revolving around traditional recipes for symbolic celebration dishes on special occasions. His proficiency and finesse in the kitchen may well reach the ultimate test with Nest Brisbane. And in the lead up to the Asian-Fusion restaurant’s opening, MyCityLife sits down with Chef Kenneth Ip and explores an international journey through kitchens and cuisine that starts at Hong Kong and ultimately leads to Brisbane.

You’ve had quite a successful career within a very demanding industry: what have you learnt as a Chef?
Apart from constantly honing my culinary skills, I’ve really had to learn how to think on my feet. Planning and preparation is important, especially when opening a new venue, but if over forty years in the kitchen has taught me anything, it’s that anything can happen. You need to be adaptable and have a strong team behind you. 

What special techniques did you learn in Hong Kong that you have bought to Australian cuisine?
I grew up in a food loving family learning how to make traditional recipes that had been passed down through generations. When I started my apprenticeship I was working in some of Asia’s grandest five star hotels so I developed the ability to apply those authentic, fresh spices and ingredients to fine dining dishes and get trained by a diverse range of chefs from various nationalities – which definitely shows through in my dishes. 

What have you learnt from Australian kitchens to add to your skills as a successful chef and patisserie chef?
Well I must say I’ve become quite a fan of the traditional Aussie barbecue and I’ve been lucky enough to have the chance to learn some bush tucker cooking techniques since moving to Australia. I found that some of the philosophies and approaches are actually quite similar to traditional Chinese herbal cooking. And then of course, there are things like the country style cake baking and Pavlovas that have been fun to learn – and taste!

Australia is such a multi-cultural country: how have cooking techniques changed here since you first arrived, and how do you think it translates to the food we eat – particularly here in Brisbane?
Brisbane foodies are definitely demanding that chefs push the boundaries with new concepts, and dishes. I definitely have had to adapt to changing market trends but I find that it doesn’t matter how creative your menu is or which cuisine you’re cooking: diners still ultimately demand the basics – good flavors and fresh, quality ingredients cooked well.

What do you think about Brisbane’s growing hospitality scene, and how do you hope to contribute towards it?
Brisbane’s hospitality scene has really ‘grown up’ in recent years and it’s been great to see so many really creative venues opening. We hope to maintain the high caliber of dining destinations that Brisbane residents have come to expect and set the benchmark for dining and entertaining in the Roma Street precinct.

Nest Brisbane is as an Asian-Fusion restaurant: what aspects will be fusion, what will be Asian andwhat will Nest’s food outlook be?
Nest is all about the journey and experience of enjoying good food with great company. Every dish on the menu, every cocktail and bottle of wine at the bar – it all tells a story. There is a bit of East meets West in the range of menu options available – our specialty is a range of bold, modern Eastern and South East Asian dishes but we also have a few modern Aussie favourites on the menu, like grilled local seafood and steaks.

What do you hope to achieve with Nest?
I hope that Nest becomes a destination dining venue. We’ve worked really hard to create different precincts within the one space: from the traditional dining tables overlooking the Lantern Tree, to the quick eats bench style Noodle Hut, to the lounge bar, it’s a great space for people to gather and share good food and drinks together. We’ve really matched the menu to suit everything from tapas share plates for Friday afternoon drinks to full meals to enjoy for a main meal. 

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