Bobby Chinn’s Chinese and Egyptian parentage have given his food a fusion of flavours
Followers of Bobby Chinn’s travels through Asia and the Middle East in his World Café Series on the TLC channel can look forward to seeing the chef in an all-new avatar in a new show. Restaurant Bobby Chinn is set in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and follows Chinn through the process of building the restaurant from scratch.
Bobby Chinn was born in New Zealand, and describes himself on the World Café website as an “ethnic mutt”: his father is Chinese, and his mother is Egyptian. He’s also lived all around the world, and has become known for his fusion of Western and Asian food. He worked in the finance industry before realising that it was food and travel he cared about.
Edited excerpts from an email interview:
What was the moment you decided you would be in food?
I never dreamed of becoming a chef and if I hadn’t been a chef I would have been a musician. But I stumbled into it though it was always there and I always seemed to land myself a job in a restaurant since I was 15 years. Between my Chinese grandmother and Egyptian grandmother in Cairo, I got a whiff of food that sparked my senses. I helped out occasionally, but it was no big deal. I also grew up fascinated watching Julia Child so my childhood had a huge impact on me. I would hang out with my grandmothers and talk to them about food. It was much easier than trying to relate to them on other topics of conversations. In many jobs I was working with food, but it wasn’t until I ended up working in the front of house for a chef called Elka Gilmore, did I see and taste food like never before.
How do you describe your style of cooking? Do you prefer simple or complicated, elaborate techniques?
My cuisine is evolving with my interest of exploring new places. I find my food light, clean-flavoured and rather simple, where the ingredients do the work. I think the creative edge is simplicity, and I do not make a big deal out of it. It’s simple and that’s the way I like to keep it.
Given that you’ve done so many different things during your early and adult years, are you in the food business to stay?
Ok rub it in; I am a bad Chinese son! I’m not interested in maths and I am not motivated by money! To be frank, I would love to expand, if and only if I had a great team of people. It is hard to run a restaurant, film several TV shows, travel doing guest appearances, writing a new book and keep up with the demands of a private life and a Facebook life.
I am interested in following my passion and the quality of life that I can create. If expansion and multiples of businesses were to come my way, then great, but I take it one day at a time. I guess it shows!
Restaurant Bobby Chinn premieres today at 10.30 p.m. on the TLC channel. It will run every Wednesday.