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Debbie Wong: From acting to food hero

  • Yuliasri Perdani

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta | Wed, December 9, 2015 | 04:13 pm
Debbie Wong: From acting to food hero Summertime: Debbie Wong with one of her pasta creations. Wong channels her creativity into a Youtube culinary series, called Wok and Gong, which she produces and hosts.(Courtesy of Youtube)" height="373" border="0" width="510">Summertime: Debbie Wong with one of her pasta creations. Wong channels her creativity into a Youtube culinary series, called Wok and Gong, which she produces and hosts.(Courtesy of Youtube)

Being on camera and being in the epicurean world have always been Debbie Wong’s passions.

Before winning the Food Hero 2015 title, Hong Kong-born actress Debbie Wong spent years acting on television. Now, she is finally able to combine her effervescent personality and culinary passion.

She and Ili Sulaiman, a food-delivery business owner from Malaysia, emerged winners of this year’s Food Hero — a contest held by the Asian Food Channel and Food Network to find Asia’s best home cooks and food presenters.

Following her victory, Wong hosts Food Network Asia’s culinary battle show, Food Wars Asia 2, which takes her to some of the best restaurants in four cities, including Jakarta.

“The show is basically me going to two different restaurants that serve the same dish,” she told The Jakarta Post while in Jakarta to film recently.

“At the end, there’s a competition where people get blindfolded and taste both dishes and they decide which one is the winner. It is a really fun show,” she added.

Jakarta is her second stop after Manila. She has two more undisclosed cities to go to before the show is aired in January.

Though they are only now dovetailing, her passions for being on camera and for food started early on.

When she was 1 years old, Wong and her family migrated from Hong Kong to Canada. She learned fine art and film studies in Canada and deepened her acting skills at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in the US.

Growing up in a multicultural environment in Canada, she was also surrounded by wide variety of cuisines.

“It’s made me think of food not so much in terms of cuisines, but just flavors,” Wong said.

“For me, I look at a kaffir lime leaf, for example, in the same way as I look at some rosemary. I can combine different cultural flavors and not see it as fusion so much.”

She has appeared in theater performances, films and on television. In the last 10 years, she shuffled between Montreal, New York and Hong Kong. But, Wong felt something lacked in her life.

“I was a fulltime actress at that time, and just between jobs, I wanted something to keep me feeling creative and feeling like I was accomplishing something,” she said.

Wong then channeled her creativity into a Youtube culinary series, called Wok and Gong, which she produces and hosts.

Food champion: Hong Kong-born actress and Food Hero 2015 winner Debbie Wong at home in the kitchen.(Courtesy of Food Hero Asia)

Summertime: Debbie Wong with one of her pasta creations. Wong channels her creativity into a Youtube culinary series, called Wok and Gong, which she produces and hosts.(Courtesy of Youtube)

Being on camera and being in the epicurean world have always been Debbie Wong'€™s passions.

Before winning the Food Hero 2015 title, Hong Kong-born actress Debbie Wong spent years acting on television. Now, she is finally able to combine her effervescent personality and culinary passion.

She and Ili Sulaiman, a food-delivery business owner from Malaysia, emerged winners of this year'€™s Food Hero '€” a contest held by the Asian Food Channel and Food Network to find Asia'€™s best home cooks and food presenters.

Following her victory, Wong hosts Food Network Asia'€™s culinary battle show, Food Wars Asia 2, which takes her to some of the best restaurants in four cities, including Jakarta.

'€œThe show is basically me going to two different restaurants that serve the same dish,'€ she told The Jakarta Post while in Jakarta to film recently.

'€œAt the end, there'€™s a competition where people get blindfolded and taste both dishes and they decide which one is the winner. It is a really fun show,'€ she added.

Jakarta is her second stop after Manila. She has two more undisclosed cities to go to before the show is aired in January.

Though they are only now dovetailing, her passions for being on camera and for food started early on.

When she was 1 years old, Wong and her family migrated from Hong Kong to Canada. She learned fine art and film studies in Canada and deepened her acting skills at the American Musical Dramatic Academy in the US.

Growing up in a multicultural environment in Canada, she was also surrounded by wide variety of cuisines.

'€œIt'€™s made me think of food not so much in terms of cuisines, but just flavors,'€ Wong said.

'€œFor me, I look at a kaffir lime leaf, for example, in the same way as I look at some rosemary. I can combine different cultural flavors and not see it as fusion so much.'€

She has appeared in theater performances, films and on television. In the last 10 years, she shuffled between Montreal, New York and Hong Kong. But, Wong felt something lacked in her life.

'€œI was a fulltime actress at that time, and just between jobs, I wanted something to keep me feeling creative and feeling like I was accomplishing something,'€ she said.

Wong then channeled her creativity into a Youtube culinary series, called Wok and Gong, which she produces and hosts.

Food champion: Hong Kong-born actress and Food Hero 2015 winner Debbie Wong at home in the kitchen.(Courtesy of Food Hero Asia)Food champion: Hong Kong-born actress and Food Hero 2015 winner Debbie Wong at home in the kitchen.(Courtesy of Food Hero Asia)

Her bubbly personality brightens up the culinary series. Sometimes, she does a little dance before cooking '€” from a simple 1-minute pasta sauce and spicy and sour Chinese potato to American balsamic glazed meatloaf sandwiches and Moroccan Tagine.

'€œWhat I love about this versus the acting is that I am being myself and I get that immediate response,'€ said Wong, who named chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain as someone she looked up to.

'€œWhereas with acting, the challenge is really inhabiting the skin of someone else because you'€™re playing a different character.'€

She describes her cooking style as '€œbig impact, minimal effort'€, where she delivers a sophisticated menu in simple ways. Through the series, Wong wants to show the real kitchen, where cooking mistakes sometimes occur.

'€œI find people who have never cooked before often get intimidated even by a cooking show because on TV it looks like, '€˜Wow, it turned out perfectly every time'€™. For me, when [there'€™s a] mistake, I like to just show it.'€

When cooking, Wong doesn'€™t always have recipes in mind. Most of the time, she just goes to the market, gets the best fresh produce, poultry or meat, and create dishes out of that.

'€œI am really mostly inspired by produce. I really love fruit and vegetables.'€

With two video cameras, a microphone and limited crew, Wong takes her audience to taste dishes in various restaurants and talk with the chefs and customers.

As Wok and Gong entered its fourth year, Wong finally brought her culinary passion to television when she signed up for Food Hero 2015.

'€œI am passionate about food [...] and I have a performing background so being in front of camera is very natural for me.'€

'€œSo, when the competition presented itself I thought, well, this is perfect. It'€™s like my backgrounds are coming together.'€

She made the top five and shined in the final with her paprika crusted Miyazaki Rib-Eye, paired with summer coleslaw and sweet pepper salsa.

For her, being a Food Hero is a dream come true and has opened up new opportunities that she never imagined before.

She said that what she has learned most from all of her experiences leading up to where she is now is that you don'€™t have to channel your skills too narrowly.

'€œWhen I was younger, I was like '€˜Oh[...] I like acting, so maybe an actress'€™, or '€˜I like cooking, so I may be a chef'€™. Now, I think the world has really opened up so many opportunities and you can really create your own jobs within certain industries,'€ Wong said.

'€œIf you really work for it, you can create your own identity.'€

Wong has not set any specific goals for the future, but she knows that whichever path she takes, she will always keep sharing her passions and talents.

'€œMy future aspirations are just to keep living as my true, honest self and experience as much as I can and give back as much as I can with the gifts that I was given.'€

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