How does a chef get through one of the most challenging times the hospitality industrys ever faced?
For Dan Hong, its been a chance to get buff.
The Merivale executive chef behind restaurants including Mr Wong, Lotus, Queen Chow hopped on the phone to tell us about the most helpful things in his life right now.
Every couple of years I go in phases of gaining weight and losing weight. I first started using this app five years ago. I started going to the gym, I got a trainer and I lost a lot of weight 12 kilos.
But then, Covid made me gain eight kilos. At first, I was drinking a lot. So, for the last nine or 10 weeks Ive been on a massive diet and not drinking. I decided at the beginning of July I wanted to lose weight. And the only way for me to really see results is to record every calorie I put in my body not everyone is like this, but for me, its essential.
A lot of people think theyre eating healthy but theyre not. They think I can still eat olive oil, I can still eat a poke bowl. You can still eat carbs and oils and stuff, but you have to know when to stop, and recording it really helps.
Of course its difficult as a chef, to really commit, because I was always travelling. If I was going overseas or interstate Id be eating a lot. So this was the perfect time to start, because I knew I wasnt going to go anywhere.
The Kiwi brand knife is one of the cheapest knives on the market. Theyre available at any Asian grocer and they come in different sizes for no more than $10. Theyve got wooden handles and theyre super sharp and light. We use them at home and, when they go blunt, we just buy a new one.
When I was a second-year apprentice we had this French-Canadian chef whod just come back from a stage [an internship] at El Bulli he told me about them. This was in 2002 and they were $2 each. Id been spending hundreds of dollars on knives so this was a revelation.
Its so perfect for what I need to do, from julienning and simple chopping and dicing. They last quite a while, if you use them every day they stay sharp for a month. Once they go blunt, you can just buy a new one. Ive used them all through my career. I would always have a box of them in the drawer in the office, a stash.
If you go to Thailand, all the street food vendors use them too.
It feels good to have something so cheap that works so well. Its nothing against good knives. If you look at sushi chefs, for instance, you just cant do your job with a Kiwi knife. Its the same for butchering. But for simple at-home chopping jobs, its literally the perfect knife.
I find it hard to sleep every night, especially with the amount of training Ive been doing. I have aching muscles every now and then, and magnesium really helps to relax them so I can have proper sleep and a clear mind.
Not drinking helps too. I like this, rather than trying to take melatonin or something that makes you drowsy, because this way you wake up feeling really refreshed.
Taking them is an old personal trainer thing they always recommend them when you first start working out. Now, its pretty much become ritualised for me. Its not that I notice a big, big difference when I take them, but I do notice I have a deeper sleep and Im not waking up in the night as much.
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