Article from the Sun daily by Rachel Law (posted on 14 July 2015)
FOR Nik Michael Imran, the kitchen has always been his playground growing up. This is because under the tutelage of his father, who is also an acclaimed chef, he began cooking at the tender age of nine. Fast forward 17 years later, he is now one of Malaysia's most promising young chefs.
Nik rose to fame in 2011 when he became one of the 24 finalists chosen out of 500 contestants for MasterChef Malaysia season one.
The show brought his cooking into the limelight and he decided to defer his business education to embark on a culinary journey. A year later, he opened comfort food restaurant PickNik with his father in Kuala Lumpur.
And if he does look familiar to you,it is because Nik has appeared on various food-related television shows on Astro, TV3, 8TV, TV9 and RTM since his MasterChef days. In fact, he also hosted Asian Food Channel (AFC)'s Tea Twist for a season, and collaborated with Pizza Hut for the Signature Series range.
Do you cook at home?
No, I never cook at home because I spend more time at the restaurant than at home. My kitchen at home only has condiments such as ketchup, mayonnaise, soy sauce and such – they're just things to add on to the food that I take home.
But when it comes to family events, do you cook?
That depends because there are two types of family occasions; the first being the death of a family member or the birth of new baby, and the second is Hari Raya Aidilfitri. For the former, I usually get my restaurant to cater if there is a need for food, but since the restaurant is closed during Hari Raya I do go into the kitchen to help out. Most of the time, I'll be doing prep work because my aunts are still around and to them I'm always a little boy.
What is the longest shift you have ever worked in the kitchen without taking a break?
I think it's about eight to nine hours. This was within the first year of operation when PickNik was slightly understaffed. One of the employees was sick and it was a busy day because it was Mother's Day, I think, so it was non-stop cooking from lunch to dinner. It was hectic but fun. Nonetheless, after a while I was just looking for a reprieve because it was exhausting.
What was your worst kitchen disaster?
The first time I was in the kitchen for my new AFC show. We were doing the indoor shooting at the kitchen, and I was going about doing my introduction when I accidentally cut my finger very deeply. I was supposed to take my knife to start chopping parsley so I had this long, sharp Japanese knife on a magnetic board. Normally my knife would already be on the chopping board but because it's for a television show, everything has to be a bit gimmicky. So I grabbed the knife, turned around and while I was facing the camera the tip of the knife knocked the board and it flew up. While it was spinning in the air, I quickly backed off but it still managed to slice me on its way down. People's knee jerk reaction would've been to catch it and if I had done that I'd have lost several fingers. The cut was so bad that we had to stop filming to tend to it.
How do you stay up-to-date with the new trends in the food and beverage industry?
I don't follow trends nor do I create trends although the latter is not up to me. For me, I focus on classic dishes such as aglio olio, roast chicken, and steak. I go for the classics and make a good dish the way it's supposed to be done. Once in a while, I do make a twist but that's more of keeping myself entertained and not to have such a bland palate on the menu. Because my dishes are mostly classic dishes, it's just old flavours so I will need to spice them up occasionally.