A Malaysian Northerner in Northern England
Born and brought up in Butterworth, Penang, Norman Musa is the co-founder of Ning restaurant in Manchester in the North West of England, UK.
A kampung boy by upbringing, he came to the UK in 1994 to train as a quantity surveyor at the University of Portsmouth. It was as a student that, despite his family’s restaurant and food stall business, he discovered that he did not know how to cook! Being a resourceful, tenacious sort, he was soon in regular touch with his late Mum who mentored him over the phone and when back home in Malaysia in the art of fabulous home cooking.
Working as a Quantity Surveyor first in Bournemouth and then London, he would regularly cook and host family-like feasts for all his Malaysian friends and their friends in the UK. They and his then business partner, Andy, observed the skill, passion and dedication by which he would not just expertly cook but creatively present his amazing food at such parties.
With such a passion for his native food and having been mentored in his cooking skills by his Mum, he and his friends started to dream about running a restaurant which would showcase the wonderful food that he grew up with. But it was not until 2003 when Norman moved Manchester that the dream became a reality. With the city centre changing fast with new apartments and urban dwellers, Manchester seemed to be a ripe for something new and different.
A self-taught Master Chef brings Malaysian food to Britons
Ning restaurant was finally born in 2006 and since then Norman has shaped it into a critically acclaimed restaurant, which was nominated for Restaurant of the Year in 2009.
In 2007 Chef Norman launched his Malaysian cookery classes, which has given him the opportunity to promote Malaysian food to the locals and which have since proven phenomenally popular. Teaching his students how to cook classic dishes like Rendang, Gulai and Murtabak, he has also demonstrated Malaysian cooking at city food festivals and on TV.
Norman and Ning restaurant have appeared in well-known UK publications including The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Guardian and Time Out, and in Malaysian in The Star and on TV3, TV9 and Astro, including on In Person, Awani Pagi and Nasi Lemak Kopi O. His first TV appearance in the UK was on Market Kitchen with celebrity chefs Rachel Allen, Mark Sargeant and Matt Tebbutt
He has since gone on to host his own 13-episode TV series in Malaysia and feature as celebrity chef on MasterChef Malaysia in 2011.
A global ambassador for Malaysian food in the fast lane
Norman’s ambition is to be a global ambassador for Malaysian cuisine. His goal was on track to being realised in 2010 with his appointment as Race Chef for the Lotus Racing (now Caterham) Formula One team. A prestigious opportunity, Norman was the first Malaysian chef in the first halal F1 kitchen at each race around the world.
During this time he cooked for the drivers, crew, VIPs including Nicole Sherzinger and HRH Prince Andrew, and the team's boss, Malaysian entrepreneur and QPR football club owner Tony Fernandes.
Since then he has passionately and energetically promoted Malaysian food back in the UK, through his involvement in the Malaysia Kitchen campaign,his cookery school, food festival appearances - including prestigious events such as Taste of London and BBC Good Food Show alongside the likes of John Torode and Rick Stein - and leading new research into Malaysia's culinary heritage.
His style and approach is unique. Characterised by colour, simplicity, freshness, quality and style – just like his self-published book that sold 7,500 – Chef Norman’s recipes are easy to follow and adapted to Western and global tastes that will help Malaysian food, the unsung hero of South East Asia, be ‘the next big thing’.
Multi-talented contemporary approach founded on traditional culture
Perhaps Norman’s most significant achievement has been his ability to carefully balance authenticity with contemporary touches.
Whilst in the UK, Norman has developed his interest in traditional Malay culture and its culinary arts. Prior to opening the restaurant, he performed traditional dance at cultural festivals in the UK with a South East Asian performing arts group including to an audience of HM Queen Elizabeth II.
His other talents include interior design and fashion; and contemporary floral arrangements.
With his love of music and entertainment, Norman has hosted well-known Malaysian singers and bands such as Ning Baizura, Mawi and Estrella, as well as dignitaries including Malaysian Ministers and Royal Family.
Norman Musa is a rapidly rising star and passionate advocate of Malaysian cuisine, both in Malaysia, UK and around the world. He is the One to Watch.
Norman remains a modest, approachable and friendly chef who always woos his audiences, students and customers in his own personable style wherever he goes.