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The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Hungry: Lee Tran Lam quizzes chefs, critics, bar staff and other people from the world of food about their career highlights and lowlights, war stories and favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney.

Nov 19, 2018

Jowett Yu was working at Tetsuya's – then in the Top 5 of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants – but couldn’t even afford a bed. It was a wild time (just listen to the memorable "pep talk" that head chef Martin Benn gave when the restaurant reached #4 on the list) and the kitchen was full of upcoming stars: Daniel Puskas (Sixpenny), Clayton Wells (Automata), Phil Wood (Laura), Luke Powell (LP's Quality Meats) and Dan Hong – who Jowett bonded with, because they basically had the same haircut and similar cultural backgrounds.

Together, Dan and Jowett would go on to open Lotus, Ms.G's and Mr Wong together. At Lotus, there was the momentous night they launched David Chang's Momofuku book (and cooked for both Chang and Alex Atala), Ms.G's involved a memorable American research trip (where Jowett ate something that resulted in the "best 30 seconds of my life") and Mr Wong, which was an "intense" experience where he'd finish work at 3am and clock in again at 9am. 

Jowett then opened Ho Lee Fook in Hong Kong (an experience that earnt him a "lecture" from his mum and a major grilling when he put her dumplings on the menu – but even she ended up a fan of the restaurant). Here, the chef has experimented with fascinating vegetarian dishes, like typhoon shelter corn and celeriac char siu. More recently, he's launched Canton Disco in Shanghai.

Jowett also talks about growing up in Taiwan (and his visits to his totally boss grandmother's farm: she could look at an egg and tell when it would hatch – and be totally right) and his love of Hong Kong's Belon (he compares chef Daniel Calvert's cooking to the rise of Beatlemania).

When you consider that Jowett ended up in the kitchen as a 14-year-old because he essentially didn’t want to be a dishwasher (and he made the smart move avoiding a career in journalism, too!), there's no doubt that he's had a fascinating career.