Jimmy Wong Part I: The Making of a Sydney Food Personality
25 June, 2020
Everybody knows Jimmy Wong, or just about anybody with some level of familiarity with Sydney’s dining scene does. July will mark four years since he was a contestant on MasterChef, an event which less defined him as it did provide him the means to define himself.
Jimmy is Singaporean by birth, but has called Australia home for over 30 years. For the Wong family, food has always been at the forefront of both labour and leisure, a circumstance which now rings true for Jimmy, becoming so either by inheritance, fate, coincidence or a blend or all. Today Jimmy Wong is a photographer, cook and content creator, but his origins are in the field of design. Jimmy assumed the position of Director of Design on a number of large overseas retail projects, taking him to countries such as Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore for significant periods of time. “These jobs opened up opportunities to travel and sample many different types of international cuisine, both for work and pleasure.” During these times, dining out went beyond an occasional occurrence; “I guess this is where my love of food stems from.” When Jimmy was not working or out dining, he was at home cooking for himself, for friends and for family. “I guess I can describe myself as a passionate home cook”, passionate indeed, but also clearly talented.
"I feared the requirement for precision of baking and desserts, but I soon realised there was nothing to be scared of"
Jimmy talks about his MasterChef experience fondly, and as a strikingly positive one, made more so as it was shared with his sister, who was also a contestant. The days in front of the cameras were long, but they were days of densely concentrated learning. Jimmy absorbed much in regard to kitchen skills and cooking technique, but he also came to the realisation that there was still much he didn’t know, “during the show I learnt that there were many things I needed to work on.” The end of MasterChef spelled the beginning of a medley of commercial kitchen stints, “I approached the kitchens of Salaryman, Koi, Flour & Stone, Iceburg, Marque and Quay restaurants, all of which were kind enough to let me in,” and each offered opportunities for Jimmy to acquire and develop many and varied skills. Jimmy was most comfortable preparing Asian cuisine, describing his “flavour preference as Asian but in particular Japanese cuisine, which has a complexity of flavours combined with beautiful presentation which I absolutely love.” The realm of desserts and baking, at venues such as Koi and Flour & Stone, was somewhat daunting, “I feared the requirement for precision of baking and desserts, but I soon realised there was nothing to be scared of, rather be excited about the possibilities.”
"I am guided by passion to learn more about local produce, sampling great cuisine and meeting farmers, restaurateurs and suppliers alike"
Defining exactly what Jimmy Wong is today is difficult, but it is also wholly unnecessary. In his own words, he is a “photographer, cook and content creator”, and much of his occupational efforts are directed toward “working with brands and those in the hospitality industry to help them build upon those brands”. Regardless of what fills his days, it almost always pivots on dining, or more specifically dining in Sydney, and “guided by passion to learn more about local produce, sampling great cuisine and meeting farmers, restaurateurs and suppliers alike.”
From his time as avid home-cook, drawing inspiration from the restaurants of Asia, through his appearance on MasterChef to today, where he works as a hospitality brand and media consultant, there exists a common, binding theme, one of perpetual learning. His knowledge of Sydney’s hospitality market, from the origins of the produce all the way to the table on which it is served, and the media which markets it to the customer, has been acquired by his drive to further a holistic understanding of the industry he adores.
In Part II of this two part feature, we pick the brain of one of Sydney's hospitality personalities; Jimmy Wong, about dining in his beloved city.