How does a chef get through one of the most challenging times the hospitality industry’s ever faced?
For Dan Hong, it’s 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.
The My Fitness Pal app
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 I’ve 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, it’s essential.
A lot of people think they’re eating healthy but they’re 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 it’s difficult as a chef, to really commit, because I was always travelling. If I was going overseas or interstate I’d be eating a lot. So this was the perfect time to start, because I knew I wasn’t going to go anywhere.
The Kiwi brand knife is one of the cheapest knives on the market. They’re available at any Asian grocer, and they come in different sizes for no more than $10. They’ve got wooden handles and they’re 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 who’d 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. I’d been spending hundreds of dollars on knives – so this was a revelation.
It’s 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. I’ve used them all through my career. I would always have a box of them in the draw 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. It’s nothing against good knives. If you look at sushi chefs for instance, you just can’t do your job with a Kiwi knife. It’s the same for butchering. But for simple at home chopping jobs, it’s literally the perfect knife.
I find it hard to sleep every night, especially with the amount of training I’ve 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 it when you first start working out. Now, it’s pretty much become ritualised for me. It’s not that I notice a big, big difference when I take them, but I do notice I have a deeper sleep and I’m not waking up in the night as much.