Head chef for Ebisu, Seven and Fukuko Fred Wong likes to confound people’s expectations – both on the plate and in real life.
Are you from Auckland? I was born in Hong Kong and have lived in Auckland for 20 years. I spent six years in Japan too, but I studied, lived and worked here.
Where did you study here? Auckland University of Technology, and I studied business as well. Just for management skills, which come in quite handy.
How did you come to be here? I’ve been at Ebisu for five years. At the time they were looking for head chefs. And I was quite excited about this area because back in the day, Britomart was a bus terminal, and I was curious about how it has developed. And it’s still developing. It’s a good place to bring different concepts of food down here. I’m looking after the food in Seven on the rooftop, level five which is doing functions, and Ebisu and Fukuko.
What’s the most popular thing on the menu? Sashimi, sushi and dumplings.
What’s your favourite creation on the Ebisu menu? Ramen roll sushi, which is a little bit contemporary. It’s not like traditional sushi, which is always with rice and seaweed, and usually people are quite boring with it: salmon avocado, teriyaki chicken, etc. This one I put noodles inside with cucumbers, and with dressing on top. No one else does this. I spend a lot of time developing the sushi rolls. I use cheese, truffles, fruit. My favourite would be prawn rock melon with mayo and cucumbers. It works quite well. This is the idea with my restaurants. We have the basics – your foundation has to be strong – but once you master your foundation you can try to be creative.
What’s your idea of fun? Traveling and eating. I travel once a year. Vietnam, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong. I have range. I will spend $700 for fine dining, to $20 for two people at a local restaurant. As long as it’s interesting and inspiring, I will go there and get some ideas from the other side of the world, and try bring it back here.
Where’s the best place you’ve ever eaten? There’s a place in Rome, Italy. La Tavola, Il Vino, by Oliver Glowig, a Michelin two-star restaurant that was very impressive. It cost a fortune, but it was very, very good. I could tell they had spent a lot of time on the preparation of one dish.
Forgive my ignorance, but is two stars good? A chef with three stars is a rockstar chef. So two stars is really good.
Where would you eat around here? I like Grand Harbour, for the food, but it’s always so busy, so the service is not what you go there for!
Do you have any hidden talents? Yes! I speak a lot of languages!
Ooh. How many? I speak Cantonese, Mandarin, Japanese, English and I’m learning Korean. And I would like to learn Spanish or Italian. I’d say this is my gift. And also my palate is good. I don’t smoke and I don’t drink, so maybe that keeps up my ability to taste.
If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life what would it be? I miss my Dad’s cooking. My family cooks very well. Especially my father and grandmother. I grew up in that environment with their tasty food, which is maybe why I am picky. I would say whatever my family is cooking, I’ll have that.
Interview and photograph by Florence Noble