September 2018 Chef of the Month Penelope Wong

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We are thrilled to introduce our September Chef of the Month, Chef Penelope Wong! Since childhood, Chef Penelope has spent her life in the kitchen, from working at her family’s restaurant to being the Executive Chef at Glenmoor Country Club in Colorado. She displays her passion for food in her dishes and in her diligent work towards learning something new every day. Chef Penelope will soon be exploring new goals in the world of cuisine! Read below to find out more about Chef Penelope Wong!

1. Where were you born? Denver, Colorado

Where do you work and where are you based? I am currently the Executive Chef at Glenmoor Country Club in Cherry Hills Village, CO.  I’ve been here for 20 years and have been the Executive Chef for the last 14 years.  I will be finishing up my tenure here in September of 2018 to pursue other goals.

2. What is your favorite kitchen tool in creating your masterpieces/dishes?

I’m very old fashioned.  While I love my tweezers and my chef spoons, when it comes to kitchen tools I’m pretty simple, my favorite knife is my Messermeister Oliva santoku knife and a well-seasoned sauté pan that’s great for getting a perfect sear on a beautiful fish fillet as well as finishing a pan sauce in. I don’t even own a gnocchi board; whenever I make gnocchi (which is quite often), I use the back of a fork to shape them!

3. What is your sharpest sense out of all the 5 senses?

Hmmmmm…that’s a toss up between smell and taste.  I’ve got an extremely keen palette for layering of flavors and can easily pin point missing layers. And most times I can easily detect which items are being prepped by the aromas wafting through the kitchens and throughout the clubhouse.

4. What advice would you offer for aspiring chefs?

 Never stop learning.  The greatest thing about this industry is that there is ALWAYS something to learn.  Whether you’ve been classically trained, or you grew up in restaurants your whole life, there is something new to learn every single day in the kitchen.  Humility is the gateway to knowledge. I come in to my kitchen everyday with the hopes of learning something new, whether it be from one of my dishwashers regarding cuisine from their childhood or from one of my fellow managers in how they dealt with a difficult situation.

5. What is one culinary tip every chef should know and perfect?

If there’s ever just a little something missing and you can’t place your finger on it, add a splash of vinegar. It’ll brighten all the flavors you’ve already infused into the dish and add another layer.

6. What does good food mean to you?

Good food is everything.  Good food is nostalgia and integrity to me.  My integrity as a chef is because of the flavors of my childhood.  Most of my childhood memories center around food, and most of it involved my large family and close friends.  If you think about it, have you ever had a bad memory in which good food was involved?  Bad memories and good food simply cannot coexist.

7. What features are important to you when selecting your chef outfit?

Especially as a woman, comfort and durability are key.  I’ve purchased chef coats in the past that were cut ‘for a woman’s shape’ only to find out they were tailored to help accentuate a woman’s shape rather than to fit a woman’s shape.  When I’m in the kitchen all day prepping for service, prepping for large events, getting through service, going through inventories on order days and breaking down boxes on delivery days, I could really care less that my chef’s coat accentuated my womanly shape.  A woman’s chef coat and pants should fit her body with comfort and provide ease of movement that comes with being a working chef.

8. Favorite ingredient to work with?

Kaffir Lime

9. Favorite City to dine out in?

Bangkok

10. Best Dish you have ever made?

Yum Kai Dao – Thai fried eggs.  This was one of my father’s favorite dishes to eat. Although maybe not the best dish I’ve ever made; but one of the tastiest.  Most people have a misperception about chefs being difficult to please.  But this is one of my favorite dishes to cook and eat.  It’s rice and eggs.  It doesn’t take much more than that to satisfy chefs.

11. What you like to eat most often on your days off?

Noodles.  I’m a sucker for noodles.  Chinese hand pulled noodles. Thai noodles. Pho noodles. Pasta noodles. Dumplings (technically still a noodle, just flattened and stuffed with something!)

12. Person you would most like to cook for?

My mother.  She passed when I was 16; and although many childhood memories include dishes that she taught me how to make, I never had the opportunity to cook a meal for her when I finally took on this profession as a career.

13. What made you decide to become a chef?

The passion for food is in my blood.  As a child, I was always more interested in what was going on in the kitchen rather than running around with my cousins and playing.  I was always wanting to learn in the kitchen and when I was finally allowed to help in the kitchen with the matriarchs in my family during Sunday dinners, I remember how proud I was of myself to finally earn the privilege of being included in this weekly ritual.  When I turned 12, I would go to my family’s restaurant to help out on the weekends, and rather than staying in the front of the house to help seat people or ring people up, I ended up in the kitchen everyday helping my father and grandfather with prep and eventually getting through services.

Connect with Our September Chef of the Month:

Instagram: @penelopewong

 

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