Will Meyrick’s culinary travels are a thing of legend and provide more than just the inspiration for the signature dishes found throughout his epicurean empire.
Q: Will, your culinary travels are a thing of legend and provide the inspiration for the signature dishes found throughout your epicurean empire. A very simple question to begin with: How did it all begin?
A: I’ve been travelling since I was a teenager. People and their different cultures and ways have always fascinated me and when I started travelling through Asia, I just fell in love with it. It really was a completely new experience for me. I spoke only English and found that food was the easiest tool to bridge the cultural gaps.
Since then, well I cannot stop exploring, including the culinary side of travel. Later I came to realize that there were so many beautiful cultures hidden under the homogeny of the “”modern”” world umbrella. This is what motivates me to travel more, meet more people, learn the culinary culture and bring authentic recipes home, to promote these gastronomic gems to a wider audience.
Q: Your most recent journey, through Penang, Malacca and Sumatra, must have been extraordinary; why did you choose those particular destinations?
A: I had been before and recalled only too clearly just how rich in diversity their vibrant cuisine cultures are. These destinations, well, they are melting pots with so many ethnic groups. For me, the countless variety of dishes really shows the harmony between the cultures. Malays, Arabs, Indians, Chinese and a few other influences, too, are all thrown together in a unique blend. The result was that one brand-new culture, which we now call “Peranakan”, developed.
It is no accident to acknowledge that this is why Kuala Lumpur is now the home of the third Mama San restaurant.
Q: How much and what preparation goes into one of your gastronomic forays?
A: A little research: That’s it really and apart from that, I make sure I have clean and fully functional cameras, empty memory cards, phones and a pad to make notes.
Q: Wow! Is that all? So typically, on a trip like this, how long do you travel for?
A: I can go from a-few-days-squeezed-schedule to one or two months. There really is no typical in my life. I take off when I can and go for as long as I can.
Q: Do you have set goals or even recipes you aim to discover?
A: I do my research, gathering ideas and basic understandings as a framework, but most of the time I end up following up the stories told to me by the people that I meet.
Q: The diversity of Asian street food is incredible; so how do you choose what to use and what not to use?
A: I really value authenticity and as long as it’s not poisonous, then I use exactly what is supposed to be used. But taking the recipes to my restaurants, well this means taking them to the next level. For example, our restaurants have very strict quality and hygiene standards — this applies to ingredients as well as the process of the cooking. Therefore, we develop the recipes to meet our standards.
Q: How authentic are the dishes you serve up, compared to the food you encounter?
A: Always authentic, with no compromise; however, we do have our own twists to elevate the original dish to extract its full potential. For most of the time our influence can also be seen in the way we serve the dishes.
Q: How do you convince people to give up their often secret family recipes?
A: This is actually the most interesting part of every food journey I take. I should say, it’s really just a matter of how you approach and interact with people. Most Asian kitchen doors, especially in Indonesia, are pretty open to strangers like me; you just have to show them that you are comfortable in their environment and with their hospitality.
I believe when you’re genuine, like we are, people will always see that and when they are comfortable, even with a language and cultural gap, they will gladly share their secrets.
Q: The big question: What delights can we expect from your recent trip and, maybe more important, where will they be available?
A: We have already put one Nyonya or Peranakan dish on Hujan Locale’s menu. Check out Pangek Ikan using barramundi. We also have some local Sumatran dishes that are getting popular now, such as Sie Itek aromatic duck curry and Acehnese prawn curry.
Q: You have been working with Exquisite Media for a while now. So how is that working out for you?
A: I’m pretty happy with the footfall and so far, according to my excellent PR team, it’s never hard to discuss things with you. Not only that, your layout has always been visually “”exquisite””, which, in my opinion, is as important as the content, especially for features like this.
Q: Where next?
A: I’m really not sure. I’ll surprise myself, no doubt, and let you know once I know.
Will, as always it has been a real pleasure to chat about your travels and extraordinary food. I look forward to hearing about your next adventure.