British-born Andrew Wong was awarded his second Michelin star for his unique interpretation of the cuisine of China. Wong meticulously researches traditions and tastes across the vast nation and brings a wealth of detail and history to every dish he creates. For "The Dish," Imtiaz Tyab sat down with Wong to sample some true delights.
[MUSIC PLAYING - THE BEATLES, "COME TOGETHER"]
- This morning on "The Dish," we take you to London to meet one of the city's most distinctive chefs-- British-born Andrew Wong is awarded his second Michelin star this year for his unique interpretation of the cuisine of China. Wong meticulously researches traditions and tastes across the vast nation, and brings the wealth of detail and history to every dish he creates. Imtiaz Tyab went to meet him and sample some true delights.
ANDREW WONG: Pour a little bit in a box, each one.
IMTIAZ TYAB: There is precision, and then there is Andrew Wong's precision. The British-born Chinese chef channels 3,000 years of Chinese cooking technique into his 21st century innovations. His restaurant, A.Wong, won its first Michelin star in 2017, and a second this year-- the first time a Chinese restaurant outside of Asia has received such an honor.
ANDREW WONG: Roger, why do we have a knife and fork on the table? Are we-- are we--
IMTIAZ TYAB: [LAUGHS]
ANDREW WONG: What are we trying to say about myself and my guest?
IMTIAZ TYAB: We met up to discuss his life, career, and what inspires him. Let's start from the beginning. Who's Andrew Wong?
ANDREW WONG: I was born in London. And my parents-- my father's side of the family is from [? Sichuan, ?] and my mother was-- is from Hong Kong. And to tell you the truth, I never imagined I would become a chef.
Being a chef isn't exactly the-- the occupation of choice--
IMTIAZ TYAB: No, not for the child of immigrants.
ANDREW WONG: --for the children of immigrants, exactly.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Wong's family business was in restaurants, but his parents wanted him to get an education.
ANDREW WONG: So I-- I initially studied chemistry at Oxford.
IMTIAZ TYAB: I mean, your parents must have been pretty happy about that.
ANDREW WONG: Right until I got kicked out.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Why?
ANDREW WONG: Well, I had quite a poor attendance record.
IMTIAZ TYAB: [LAUGHS] Switching to anthropology, Wong was at the London School of Economics when his father, who had run the family restaurant for years, suddenly died.
ANDREW WONG: When my father passed away, it was-- it was a realization that I had to-- had to grow up, and I had to grow up fast.
IMTIAZ TYAB: That restaurant is now the location of his own eatery named after his parents Albert and Annie.
ANDREW WONG: And I remember for the first years I was a chef, my parents-- my mom didn't want to tell people that I was-- I was-- [INAUDIBLE] like, yo, he's still deciding whether he wants to go to law school. But actually, she was-- she's been a great, great support for me. I mean, she's the first one to-- to tell me when I'm doing things wrong.
IMTIAZ TYAB: She does.
ANDREW WONG: Obviously, always, right? Always.
IMTIAZ TYAB: For Michelin star judges, there's little the chef can do wrong. His take on the Cantonese brunchtime staple dim sum, which translates as "touching heart," is an assortment of small plates, steamed, savory, and fried. I'm staring at what looks like grass-- [LAUGHS] --and what look like mushrooms.
ANDREW WONG: [INAUDIBLE] So it's a bun.
IMTIAZ TYAB: OK.
ANDREW WONG: It's a steamed bun. It's a steamed bun. And inside is mushrooms.
IMTIAZ TYAB: OK.
ANDREW WONG: And again, it's just one of these-- just to be playful. You know, dim sum is meant to be playful.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Yeah.
ANDREW WONG: You know, people are meant to sit around a table, have a laugh.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Wong takes even the humblest of ingredients and supercharges them with flavor. I have my eye on what looks like a seashell.
ANDREW WONG: The chicken wing.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Is it a chicken wing?
ANDREW WONG: It's a chicken wing. So it's a-- it's a chicken wing that's been marinated in fermented bean curd.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Wow.
ANDREW WONG: And--
IMTIAZ TYAB: What's that on top of it?
ANDREW WONG: It's basically a diced-up snail with ginger, and garlic, and chili.
IMTIAZ TYAB: OK, so I'll take that.
ANDREW WONG: But there are two bones in that wing.
IMTIAZ TYAB: There are? OK.
ANDREW WONG: Because--
IMTIAZ TYAB: Just like a proper chicken wing.
ANDREW WONG: Yeah, because it's like, sacrilege to-- to be removing bones from a chicken wing in Chinese culture.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Yeah.
ANDREW WONG: Yeah.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Do you feel like this really represents you as a British-born Chinese person?
ANDREW WONG: You know, I'm not an expert on Chinese food. But I'd like to think that I'm aspiring to be an expert on my Chinese food, and the Chinese food that we serve at A.Wong. And that's really all I can really answer for as a chef, and as someone who has come from a background of Chineseness within an international city.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Collaborating with food anthropologist Doctor Mukta Das, Wong frequently travels to China to explore Chinese food history, recipes, and ingredients. But he hasn't forgotten the community he grew up with in London. We're in the middle of a global pandemic. It's been pretty tough for a lot of Chinese restaurants, family restaurants. How are you feeling at this moment?
ANDREW WONG: You know, initially back in March, there was this-- kind of this stigma of the Chinese community. And there was this knee-jerk reaction. You know, if you looked at my friends in Chinatown, for example, their restaurants were completely empty, right?
But the glimmer of hope that I saw is that when restaurants reopened, actually, people went back to Chinese restaurants very, very quickly. But I do think that nowadays, Chinese cuisine and Chinese culture is an important part of British culture.
IMTIAZ TYAB: For Wong and his family, food is at the heart of that. I've said this before, this is your dad's restaurant. It's now yours. It's doing phenomenally well. What do you think your dad would have made of all of this?
ANDREW WONG: That's a-- that's a hard one. Because he would have been proud of what we've achieved.
IMTIAZ TYAB: He just wouldn't say it?
ANDREW WONG: But-- no, but he would not have been proud for the journey it took to get here. Because he much would have preferred me to be a doctor.
IMTIAZ TYAB: Even still, with two Michelin stars?
ANDREW WONG: I think so. I have the sauce for the potato.
IMTIAZ TYAB: For "CBS This Morning-- Saturday," Imtiaz Tyab, London.
ANDREW WONG: The sauce and the--
- Two Michelin stars aside, though, I'm telling you, I cannot wait to dive into that next trip--
- It looks amazing.
- Right? OK?
- Love it. Let's do it. A.Wong, next time we go to--
- All right.
- --to London there. I'll tell you what, though-- that's a hardcore dad, right?
- Two-- two Michelin stars, and he's not-- wouldn't be-- wouldn't be thrilled with that? That's pretty amazing.
- It's a different metric when you're the child of immigrants like that, though. Because doctor's a known career path. Michelin stars are not commonplace, necessarily, so--
- Yeah. Yeah. But I have to tell you, that voice of his? Love it.