Lau cooked pretty often too. She watched television food programmes and tried out the recipes afterwards. However, there were a lot of failures.
“I remember there was one time when I almost burnt down my friend’s apartment,” Lau laughs as she recalls the story. “We were making a potato quiche, but the oven overheated and burnt all the cheese inside. The alarm kept going off and we could do nothing about the situation.” They ended up waiting for the cheese to stop burning and had to air out the apartment.
These memories and experiences all contribute to her cooking. Born in Hong Kong and educated in the United States, Lau feels that both cultures influence her thinking. So in her dishes, she creates harmony between eastern and western elements and produces her own style of fusion food.
Lau views food as a medium of expression for her emotions, thoughts and personality. “The idea is that a dish can express something, either it’s from the places I have been, or a poem I have read,” she says, explaining her idea of edible stories.
Lau’s signature dish “Zen Garden”, a matcha petit four is one of her favourite creations and is inspired by the Japanese tea ceremony. She creates the dish on a slate-like plate: white chocolate mousse with matcha powder and cream on top is served on the plate, with peanut powder “sand” and black meringue “rocks” made out of sesame and charcoal bamboo.
Lau pays close attention to the colours, aromas, and textures of the various ingredients in order to craft her stories on a plate more vividly. In this way she combines what she learned about graphics design with food.
Apart from Tate, she also runs a luxury catering company called Butler, whose clients include top fashion brands such as Hermès. Travelling back and forth between meetings of Tate and Butler, Lau seems to be completely occupied by work. She admits it is hard to find a balance between work and her personal life but she does not regard the time she puts into the culinary industry as a sacrifice.
Lau is delighted by her Asia’s Best Female Chef 2015 award because she thinks it will open doors for her to meet other powerful women. It is an encouragement to Lau, and she hopes this will encourage more women to enter the culinary industry.
While the professional kitchen has traditionally been a male preserve, Lau believes this is changing. Kitchen conditions and technology are improving, which should make it easier for women to thrive in a physically demanding industry. In the Tate kitchen, female chefs account for half of Lau’s team.
“No matter what industry, no matter what gender, there will always be problems. But you just adapt to it,” she says with a smile. “Just don’t be afraid to try. If you seek, you’ll find.”
Edited by Angel Liu