Celebrity Chef Bruce Lim's culinary experience reads like a rep sheet of the who's who in the culinary world: after graduation from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu in London, the America-born Filipino-Chinese worked his way into some of the best French kitchens in the world, and even studied under the tutelage of world-renowned chef, Gordon Ramsay (we are jealous).
Thereafter, it was years of racking up experience points in popular establishments such as Century Park Sheraton and Jollibee Food Corporation in his home country of Philippines, before landing a TV career for himself after hosting segments on a daily magazine show for on the Philippine's largest broadcasting network. Today, Chef Bruce stars in his own Asian Food Channel (AFC) Original production called Tablescapes and is currently in development of a new show with the AFC.
But despite his prestigious background and training, and specialisation in a host of cuisines that include traditional French, Italian, Euro-Asian and international, Chef Bruce remains remarkably down-to-earth, eschewing the shroud of elitism that has plagued chefs for too long.
"My main goal is to showcase the beauty of Pinoy food," he tells TIME. "To keep it real and exciting." His open concept restaurant in the Philippines allows diners to get upclose and personal with the chefs as they prepare authentic Filipino dishes.
We caught up with Chef Bruce as he flew into town last week as part of the Starhub Hubalicious Food Festival 2011, and fired off these quick questions.
LifestyleAsia: What is the best dish you've ever eaten and where/who was it prepared by?
Chef Bruce: The best dish that I have ever eaten was Kud Kud – a chicken dish cooked in bamboo. It was prepared by a Datu in the island of Samal, Philippines. It was an honour to have had the chance to enjoy such a delicious dish, and what more handmade by the local royalty!
LifestyleAsia: What is your favourite dish to prepare on your day off?
Chef Bruce: When I get time off, I love breaking out the grill! I enjoy grilling steaks, corn and chicken legs for the family.
LifestyleAsia: How did you start out as a chef? Was there anyone who inspired you along the way?
Chef Bruce: My grandmother’s my inspiration, who also sparked my passion for food! She always took the time to explain in great detail about the different types of cooking to me. For example, using different combinations of ingredients could create what kinds of flavours. As for professional chefs, my greatest inspirations are Ming Tsi, Martin Yan and Julia Child.
LifestyleAsia: If you only had one meal left, and could have anything you wanted to eat, what would you pick?
Chef Bruce: A double thick Porterhouse steak with sautéed wild mushrooms and coffee compound butter, served with a bottle of 1998 Zinfandel from Peju Vineyard in Napa Valley.
Check out our picks for best steakhouses in Singapore and in Asia.
LifestyleAsia: Complete this sentence for us. If you hadn't been a cook, you would be....
Chef Bruce: A US Marine! However, I’m really happy that I am a cook (especially when I get to travel and experience new adventures and flavours while filming with AFC)! I feel even more satisfied now that I get to participate in the great new AFC Original Production, E&O Search for AFC’s Next Celebrity Chef. To be a part of this journey with so many talented, young and aspiring chefs, it makes this job so much more worthwhile.
LifestyleAsia: Any horror stories you'd like to share with us in your years of experience in the kitchen?
Chef Bruce: I remember apprenticing in a kitchen in London where I went to work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed looking to show the Chef that I had what it took to run my own kitchen. He welcomed me and told me to turn two cases of baby carrots. I finished by lunch, only to find that there were two more cases waiting for me in the walkway! I could barely open my hand after the dinner shift! The Chef then took the container of turned carrots that I had slaved over and popped it into a buffalo chopper! My jaw literally dropped! But at the end of the day, I managed to earned the respect of the entire kitchen and most importantly, the Chef!
Catch Chef Bruce Lim on the new AFC Original Production, Tablescapes 5, premiering on the Asian Food Channel on 22 August at 9pm.