“I like the idea of being able to do what I want and not be restricted in terms of creativity. I want to do things that inspire me to venture out and even open my own restaurant.”
Yong Bing Ngen, Chef-Owner of Majestic Restaurant
Your first job is typically the one that you remember most. It’s the definitive moment in your life where you step from childhood into a preview of adulthood. For Chef Yong Bing Ngen, this foretaste of adulthood came early on in his life as he struggled in high school before deciding to drop out and work as a dishwasher.
Proving that a humbling start is nothing to be discouraged by, Chef Yong has since earned a multitude of prestigious accolades to his name and today, is the proud chef-owner of Majestic Restaurant at Marina One.
It’s a pleasure to interview the renowned chef, and to get a first hand scoop of his tale of rags to riches.
- Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I grew up wanting to be a teacher but I ended up becoming a chef instead. It’s not quite the same but the similarity is that I’m still teaching – just not what a typical subject you’d learn in school.
- What got you interested in food?
Since I was young, I would hear my dad praise my mum for her cooking. I decided to make the effort to remember the tastes and that’s when I started to really get into cooking. Also, the principles of cooking are very interesting to me and it really inspired me to enter the Food & Beverage (F&B) industry.
- Where did you learn to cook?
I’ve never studied in a culinary school. Ever since I started working as a chef, I have been learning on the job from chefs at different restaurants.
- What are some ingredients you can’t cook without?
I would say Garlic, Chilli, and Ginger Spring Onion.
- What inspired you to open your own restaurants?
I like the idea of being able to do what I want and not be restricted in terms of creativity. I want to do things that inspire me to venture out and even open my own restaurant.
- Why did you decide to open Majestic Restaurant at Marina One and how long have you been there?
The lease at Bukit Pasoh expired and Marina One was looking for a tenant around the same time. It was very unplanned but the timings were right so we decided to make the shift to come over here. We’ve been here at Marina One for about 5 years.
- What are some must-try dishes for first timers at Majestic Restaurant?
You should try out the Baked Honey Pork Char Siew Pastry, Pork Siew Mai with Crab Roe, Kurobuta Pork Belly Marinated with Five Spice, Smoked Corn-Fed Chicken with Salt and Hickory, Signature Crabmeat Fried Rice with Egg White and Black Truffle, and Crispy King of Durian Ice Cream with Maple Syrup just to name a few.
- What do you enjoy most about your job?
I think my answer is the same as other F&B owners. I love to see guests leave the restaurant with big smiles on their faces – that’s what I enjoy most about my job.
- What is one of your favourite moments in your journey so far?
One of my favourite moments is my experience with Shangri-La Hotel. When I was younger, I applied for a job at a Chinese restaurant there but sadly I was not accepted. Fast forward 25 years later and they invited me to be a consultant at their “Guest Chef Promotion”. That was when I felt like I had achieved my dreams but not in the way I imagined.
- What does it take to become a master chef?
I think it’s very important to have a sensitive taste and a solid foundation in your culinary skills. It also helps to be innovative and have leadership skills. Lastly, I would say it’s very important that you can withstand pressure.
- What are the challenges faced on your journey to becoming a chef-owner?
I think my most challenging time was when I was an apprentice. All I could do was work hard in silence and there’s no such thing as speaking up to the seniors. I just had to work quietly and do what they told me.
- Do you have any tips for home chefs?
If you’re a home chef I would just advise you to be careful as you cook. Facilities at home aren’t like professional kitchens so it can sometimes be dangerous when you’re not careful.
- What advice would you give to aspiring chefs?
Don’t be pressured to rush the process. Allow yourself to take things slow and step by step.