Portraits: James Won

This chef is winning over hearts and stomachs.
Friday 5 April 2019
Chef James Won's work is inspired by the fusion of Malysia's culture, identity and heritage. Photo: Bonnie Yap

Chef James Won’s passion for food and cooking can be traced back to his childhood – to his grandmother. It was this passion that drove him to excel during his training at some of France and Japan’s finest three-star Michelin restaurants, which have armed him with the intricate culinary skills and knowledge he now possesses. Currently he is chef-patron at Enfin by James Won which is home to Asia’s only Krug Chef’s Table. He is also a ‘Chevalier’ – Knight by the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne, and is the only returning Hennessy Chef Ambassador to the Hennessy X.O. gastronomy series. Chef Won is inspired by the fusion of culture, identity and heritage from the many ethnic groups in Malaysia.

“Expect whimsical and ambrosial dishes that will reward you with an evening to remember … Enfin’s approach to fine French foods is fun, engaging and extremely delicious.” Our NEW menu which launched March 1st, is being featured in Good France, dubbed the “world’s greatest French dinner.” Good France returns for its fourth consecutive year, with 18 restaurants taking part in Malaysia, 14 of which will be in Kuala Lumpur. Started by renowned chef Alain Ducasse, 2018’s Good France will feature a total of 3000 chefs and 3000 menus across 5 continents. Visit our Facebook page for full details on Good France by our friend @chew_able at @malaysiatatler #enfinbyjameswon #krugambassade #chef#jameswon #finedining #kualalumpur#restaurant #klcc #menarahapseng#luxury #luxurylifestyle #chefslife#degustationmenu#degustationdinnermenu #goodfrance #FranceinMalaysia #frenchfood #goutdefrance #frenchdinner #goodfrance2018 #goutdefrance2018

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What are the best things about you?

I am a straightforward individual and enjoy being hassle-free. I like to approach complex matters in small bites and digest small bites into nothing.

Favourite ingredient to cook with?

Vegetables and seafood are both my favourite things to cook. I love Malaysia’s indigenous flora; we can learn so much from the orang asli in making our cuisine contemporary and relevant on the world stage.

What does ageing mean to you?

Age is just a figure; mental maturity is another matter altogether.

What do you spend the most money on?

Books, books and books. I cannot get enough of beautifully made cookbooks. Second to my books would be my two dogs; they get the best of everything.

What makes you feel stingy?

Bad food.

What dish are you proudest of?

Caviar and egg white – the most minimum of ingredients and the most difficult in technique, yet it delivers the most satisfying flavour.

What did you dream of being as a kid?

An inventor.

What is the biggest misconception you have heard about yourself?

People think I am “ATAS” because I own a fine dining restaurant and that I am very fussy about where I eat. But I am a very sneaker-and-cap sort of person when I am not working.

Favourite comfort food?

Nasi Lemak and Bak Kut Teh.

Who has been your biggest role model in life?

My grandmother. As a cook, she has taught me that happy people make happy food and that genuine food has its own voice.

Most interesting dish you have tasted?

Tempoyak – it is fermentation at its most complex form. I am still digesting its flavour.

What is your most overused phrase or word?

‘Are you new? Is this your first day?’

“We could tell you about the menu endlessly. Make your mouth water at the thought of the foie gras turned into a mushroom, the carrots with notes of caramel. Let you dream of the meringue that dissolves on your tongue, make you wonder which extraordinary ingredient it is matched to. Describe the individuality of each dish, explain how they win you over instantly, with both force and subtlety. Words, no matter how poetic or magical, are not tribute enough to the experience. You simply will need to step into James Won’s world and let his imagination recreate the quintessence of French cuisine for you.” Merci to Alexandra Le Vaillant and @kl_is_mine for this poetic review of our new degustation dinner menu during #GoodFrance 2018. Link to full review on our Facebook page. – – #enfinbyjameswon #krugambassade #chef#jameswon #finedining #kualalumpur #restaurant #klcc #menarahapseng #luxury #luxurylifestyle #chefslife #degustationmenu #degustationdinnermenu #goodfrance #goodfrance2018 #klismine

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What has been your greatest achievement in life?

Cooking my uncle’s last fried eggs before he passed on.

Do you cook at home frequently?

I do cook at home on weekends if my schedule permits. I have a beautiful home kitchen equipped by Miele, so cooking is really therapeutic and stress-free when you have the best “toys”.

Related: Portraits: Abdulla Al Awadi