Asian Delights in the Heart of Ashbourne – Chef Weng Wong Eatzen Interview
Ireland’s love affair with Asian cuisine has long been established and it is only growing stronger. We’ve become much more adventurous with our dining habits and constantly seek out delicacies from all across the far east. Eatzen has established itself as one of the finest Asian restaurants around. Located in Ashbourne it is a firm favourite among locals and those further afield.
Inside the stylish restaurant, it is light and airy, the sleek interiors can be credited to Hong Kong interior designer Cindy Lee and they match the food perfectly. Eatzen’s sophisticated approach to food sees traditional Asian dishes blended with modern day sophisticated and style.
The restaurant takes influences from China, Thailand and Japan to create fine dining Asian dishes. Owner Tim Tang has entrusted the running of the kitchen to head chef Weng Wong. We chatted to the talented chef to learn more about his culinary prowess and the tasty delights to be found at Eatzen.
Award-winning chef Weng Wong brings his authentic Asian style of cooking to Eatzen. Diners can taste many flavours of Asia at Eatzen as chef Weng creates fusion dishes using locally sourced ingredients. So, where did this Chinese-Malaysian chef begin his culinary career? He says “it began in 1989 as an Assistant Roast Peking Duck Chef at the famous Chinese restaurant, Marco Polo in Kuala Lumpur.”
Weng has racked up some serious experience having worked 29 years in the food industry. Following his time in Marco Polo, he trained in the world-famous Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. From here Weng moved to London, where he worked in Michelin Star restaurants including Hakkasan London, the now closed Maze by Gordon Ramsay and the Four Season Hotel London.
“Throughout my career, I have been able to work in various dynamic kitchens. For example, I have worked at the Four Seasons Hotel London at Ten Trinity Square as cooking Chinese food, and also a private chef serving to the Chairman and his business partner.”
What inspired Weng to become a chef? He says he has always been surrounded by food, as well as many different cultures which lent many tastes and food experiences to him. “One of my earliest experiences was in Kuala Lumpur, where I was privileged to be surrounded by a diversity of cultures (Malay, Chinese and Indian) all within the capital.”
Being at the heart of the food hub, I was able to gain many inspirations as a chef.”
Chef Weng bring his years of experience to the kitchen in Eatzen where he says the focus is always on the quality of the food; “It is very important for us to ensure our customers receive a consistently excellent standard of food every time they visit. Therefore, I always focus on maintaining an excellent standard of customer service and giving them an exceptional dining experience when they dine with us, with regards to both the food and the quality.”
“At Eatzen, we always make every effort to ensure our dishes incorporate some of the local seasonal produce that is on offer. We take advantage of the many farms nearby.” Supporting local is something that the team at Eatzen are very passionate about, and chef Weng is a driving force in this. “In Ashbourne, we are very lucky to be surrounded by many farms in Ireland. The fabulous Irish climate means that most of the produce is of very high quality – for example, we source some the best ducks in the world from our local farmers, as well as our Angus Beef.”
Weng tells me they use local Irish produce to create traditional Asian dishes, in a perfect pairing; “We tend to use these fresh, natural ingredients to craft our authentic dishes.”
Recalling his time at Four Seasons he says he loved cooking Peking Duck. These days at Eatzen he loves the Wok Angus Beef, which he says became his “signature dish.” He also tells me that he is currently trying out some new and exciting dishes; “I’m working on my next signature dish, which is still in its initial stages but I’m very excited about revealing it when it is complete.”
As with all jobs, there are highs and lows, and being a chef is no exception. Weng says “as a chef, it can be quite challenging at times with food experimentation, so perseverance is fundamental, but I love being able to experiment with different ingredients and styles in my cooking. I find it very important to always keep calm and keep pushing on, especially with food tastings.”
A chef’s lifestyle is notoriously demanding, so how does he achieve a work/life balance? “When I’m not in the kitchen, I like to exercise and visit food markets in my free time to find some inspiration for future dishes.”
This seasoned can no doubt impart wisdom onto the younger generation of chefs starting out in the food industry? “If you are passionate about a career in the food industry, definitely have a positive attitude. Work hard and of course, don’t forget the importance of perseverance.”
Having lived in Ireland Weng has, of course, tried out some of our traditional cuisines, add he is partial to a few of the classics “stew is my favourite”.
Looking to the future he says, “As a chef, it is always exciting for me to explore new styles of Asian cooking. I hope to continue to share my Asian cooking skills and create contemporary fusion dishes using our local produce.”