From a young age, Jeff Tan found himself in the kitchen with his mum. “I am a naturally shy person,” he told Restaurant & Café. “When I first started I discovered cooking was a great communication tool that I could use to express myself to others through food.”
Tan worked in Dubai at the Madinat Jumeirah Hotel as the Executive Chinese Chef. Here he cooked for the Sheik and the royal family, a highlight of his career. He also spent some time at Shangri-La in Abu Dhabi as the Executive Chef, as well as working under the legendary Chef Bong, now the Executive Chef at City of Dreams Manila in the Philippines. “He has had a huge influence on my career, teaching me many things including how to be a strong leader in the kitchen.”
Upon moving to Auckland to take up his role at as executive chef at SKYCITY’s Huami, Tan felt an immediate affinity with the restaurant and the staff. “Straight away it just felt like home – I step into the kitchen full of passion and energy.” Every member of the Huami team is well trained in this aim, from kitchen staff to the waiters, to ensure high-quality food is delivered every time. “The entire Huami team not only respect each other but they also respect the food and the preparation and care that has gone into each dish, so I am confident that high-quality food is delivered to every single customer that walks through our doors.”
The result of a collaboration between Tan, SKYCITY and renowned chef Nic Watt, Huami opened last year with a focus on fresh, seasonal produce and bold flavours, as well as a unique dining experience. Huami has a unique kitchen, so not only can customers enjoy the theatre of the kitchen, but also have a closer connection with the people preparing their food. “It’s great to see customers enjoying the food and a great Huami experience,” said Tan.
What sets Huami apart, said Tan, is the focus on traditional cooking techniques. “Everything from dim sums to the wood fire roasted selection uses these traditional techniques to create deliciously authentic Chinese cuisine.” As a young chef, Tan always aspired to master wood fired roasted Peking Duck. “It is such a renowned dish in Chinese culture and to learn how to do it well was always a goal of mine.” It was a goal that Tan achieved, with the Wood Fired Roasted Beijing Duck cooked on plum wood now one of the signature dishes at Huami. Favourite cooking techniques include authentic Cantonese, Sichuan and Huai Yang Cuisine. “As a chef, I really have to know all cooking techniques and ingredients. I think what makes a great chef is being able to use a variety of techniques and ingredients to make a dish truly special.”
Tan makes use of the local markets, which he said is always the best destination to find fresh ingredients. “I love looking at what people have in their shopping baskets to help my inspiration,” he said, although he is finding inspiration in Chinese herbs which, while full of nutritional value, aren’t as popular in New Zealand.
At this stage Tan’s focus is on Huami, and keeping the positive momentum going from a successful launch halfway through last year. “It's a different living experience but I’m really enjoying it,” he said. “I have the same goals wherever I live – I'm an adventurer and culinary creator, and SKYCITY is a well-known company and brand so I’m pleased to be here.”