Interview: Chef Eric Chan

Chef Eric helms from Hong Kong where he started his F&B career in 1991. Today, he oversees the daily food operations and menu creations for the casino’s VIP lounges and special events. 


Chef Eric Chan, Executive Sous Chef, Paiza Club and Ruby Lounge

Tell us more about your background and culinary journey.

I was born in Hong Kong where my family ran a cha chaan teng (Cantonese cafeteria). Growing up in a family of cooks helped develop my acute sense of palate. My father believed that the tough training in the kitchen can build my character and resilience, so he roped me in as an assistant after I completed secondary school in 1989. After a year at the cafeteria, I ventured out on my own and officially embarked on my career when I joined Fortune Seafood Restaurant as Sous Chef in 1991. 

Fortune Seafood Restaurant is a mid-range Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong offering truly authentic Cantonese cuisine. It was there where I was enlightened on the diversity and precision of Cantonese cooking. Each kitchen department, which ranges from BBQ and dim sum to braising, boiling and wok stir-frys, requires a specific skillset and finesse in handling ingredients. It was a steep learning curve, but fond memories from my six-year stint with the restaurant are deeply etched in my mind until this day.   

In the 90s, Cantonese cuisine was gaining traction around the world, with many Chinese restaurants expanding overseas and in Singapore. Together with a fellow chef, I was invited to join Crystal Jade Group in 1996. I was only 24 then, but that didn’t stop me from seizing the opportunity to widen my horizons. Under my mentor Chef Qian Han Yan’s guidance, I was exposed to a wide repertoire of Chinese culinary styles, regional ingredients, and modern flavour combinations, which fueled my interest in creating innovative dishes that stay true to my Cantonese roots. 

Today, I take charge in managing the daily food operations at our casino’s VIP lounges, as well as F&B requirements for special events in my role as Executive Sous Chef of Paiza Club and Ruby Lounge. Prior to joining Marina Bay Sands in 2018, I had accumulated experience leading culinary teams at numerous renowned establishments, which include Imperial Treasure Fine Chinese Cuisine and Holiday Inn Atrium. 

What is your culinary philosophy?

As a chef, it is important that we uphold a spirit of excellence in everything we do. Every dish on the menu is a recipe we have experimented and refined countless times, and all the dishes we serve must be consistent in taste and quality. We are also constantly learning and improving our knowledge on various ingredients, which are the soul of the dishes. Being meticulous and taking great care to serve the best to our diners are ways we show respect to our guests.

What are some of your signature dishes? How do you create new dishes that will keep surprising your guests? 

Most of my signature dishes are timeless Cantonese recipes, familiar and well-loved by locals and tourists alike. The charm of Cantonese cuisine lies in how simple ingredients can be elevated into fine dishes with bold flavours. Each week, we serve a ‘Chef’s Special’ at Ruby Lounge and Paiza Club, featuring some of my creations such as poached lobster meat served with rice in fish broth, and wok-fried wagyu beef cubes with garlic. These are common dishes in Chinese restaurants, but every chef has his own closely-guarded recipe. From sourcing to preparation and cooking, every small detail can impact the taste of the dish. 

We also offer limited-time themed specials at Ruby Lounge, featuring international cuisines such as Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai. We make our dishes in-house and tailor them to local palates. For example, many restaurants use the same commercial Japanese curry paste to make their katsu curry rice, which is a little too sweet and mild. At Ruby Lounge, we make ours with more spices and less sugar, and our guests love the stronger umami and heat. I always encourage my team to explore more cuisines and improve on original recipes. For example, I elevate the flavours of our Vietnamese beef hor fun by using a Cantonese preparation technique of roasting the beef bones before adding them to the broth, thereby enhancing its fragrance.

Share with us your advice to young chefs. 

In the hospitality industry, it is important that we always put our guests first (以客为先). Go the extra mile to serve them, and be receptive to feedback. I make my rounds in the restaurant every day to interact with diners, and read every written feedback given to me or my staff. Every comment points to an area for improvement, and every guest compliment is a source of motivation for me to strive even harder. 

Secondly, be a good team player. From kitchen to table, each dish is handled by at least three chefs, and there is a lot of team unity involved. A chef who can complement his team’s strengths and weaknesses and contribute effectively to the group will go far in his culinary journey.

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