Hong Kong Lawyer

August 2017

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82 www.hk-lawyer.org •  August 2017 Stepping Into the Unknown By Isabelle Ma A Heritage of Food It was a long journey to reach that day in FERRANDI. The appreciation of food and cooking is in my blood; my parents emigrated to the UK over 40 years ago and opened the only Chinese restaurant on the Shetland Isles, in Scotland, where I was born. I grew up in the kitchen. My mother, a formidable woman, was the chef and cooked all the Chinese dishes herself. From a young age, I was immersed on a daily basis in a multitude of aromas that tickled my nose and taste buds. We moved south to Hampshire when I was four, where my parents set up an open kitchen Chinese takeaway, which was quite avant-garde at the time. I remember many weekend nights where my parents would stow me away in a little cubby hole directly under the counter and I would hear customers mull over the menu. I would be nodding off to sleep with the sound of my dad shouting orders and mum's wok banging against the gas cooker. I guess that was the life for most first generation British-born Chinese in those days. I grew up watching British television programmes, which had a strong emphasis on cookery shows. I would admire Delia Smith on television teaching her viewers how to make the perfect Victoria sponge cake. I would linger on the dessert chapters in mum's cook books willing the photos to come to life. I remember my first ever dessert was a disastrous banana cake. As a typical Asian family, we did not have an oven at home; we had a rice-cooker and a mega powered gas cooker for the wok. I naively thought that a microwave-oven was the same as an oven so when the recipe instructed me to bake for 25 minutes, that is exactly what I did – 25 minutes full power in the microwave. Mum did not enjoy scraping the charred remnants of banana cake from the "oven". This minor setback did not deter me and instead I focused on Asian desserts with mum's assistance and we would make steamed sponge cakes, and crispy peanut puffs for Chinese New Year. Law and My Journey Down a Different Path My mum never went to school, but like most Asian parents wanted the best for me and had high hopes. In my family's eyes, there was no doubt I would be going down the professional degree path, it was just a question of which degree: accounting, medicine or law. Spurred on by witnessing how hard my parents worked to give me a better future (and watching copious episodes of Ally McBeal), I chose law. I was the first generation to go to university and the first to study law in my family. Although I studied hard for my degree, my passion for cooking never dissipated. At university, finally equip with an oven, I would host dessert parties and that was the first time I experienced seeing the delight on people's faces from tasting desserts that I had made. It was immensely satisfying and I was hooked on that feeling. As with most other professional careers, once you are on the legal track it's pretty hard to get off and you follow what your peers do. Therefore, after law school, I As I buttoned my crisp white uniform and tied my apron round my waist, I looked at myself in the mirror and thought, "This is it!". I was finally taking my first steps towards a career as a pastry chef. That was my first day at FERRANDI | L'école de Gastronomie in Paris.

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