Cooking for loved ones and catering for parties at home were favourite pastimes for Sheila Fu even as a child. That passion grew with age until Fu interned at hotels and restaurants, when she became discouraged by the long hours and unsocial shifts. Indeed, until covid 19 hit she’d decided that a career in cookery was unlikely, but after pandemic measures ruled out dining at restaurants, she took it up once more for friends and family at home. With a bit of nudging from them, Fu then decided to take the leap and begin her journey as a private chef for hire.
What was your biggest hurdle when starting out?
Not being a restaurant with a business registration made sourcing the ingredients I wanted much more challenging that it would’ve been for a restaurant chef. Most suppliers are only willing to deliver to businesses that order in bulk, and were unwilling to fulfil my smaller orders. Now I have a handful of suppliers that i work with closely, but it definitely took a while to get here.
Why did you decide to become a chef for hire rather than taking the standard restaurant route?
I love having full control over every aspect of every meal I cook. From designing the menu to visiting markets for grocery to plating the dish, I want to oversee everything to make sure I’m providing the experience I envisioned to my diners. Being a private caterer also keeps things more interesting and challenging as I need to cook at different venues with varying layouts, stove tops and oven temperature – even if I’m cooking at a venue I’ve been to before I always design a new menu for each dinner. I love how it keeps me on my toes and encourages me to develop new dishes.
What was the dish that first put you on the map?
As much as I didn’t want to jump on the bandwagon of the chicken-rice trend that was taking over Hong Kong. I’d say it’s the dish that put me on the map. I only started making the dish about six months into my venture, but once I did and people were posting it on social media, I got a lot of inquiries. To this day it’s still the most requested dish, especially by new clients.
What can diners expect from your cooking?
A sense of familiarity with some unexpected twists. I love to stick with classics while keeping things interesting, so my menus will often include a mix of traditional French and modern fusion. Diners can also expect to leave with a full belly. I love a hearty and satisfying meal that fills you up and I never want my diners to feel they’re missing that one last bite.
What are your pantry essentials?
Anchoivies. They pack so much flavour and can be added to almost anything for a kick of umami and salinity.
If you could only make one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?
This is such a difficult question but if I had to choose just one it would be a super-simple agile e olio pasta. It’s the dish I crave for most often, and I always have the ingredients to prepare it. It’s so simple yet incredibly good when done right.
Can you share my future plans with us?
I hope to open my own place with my husband one day – he’s also a great chef.
Which pro tip you would give for cooking at home?
A sharp knife makes cooking a lot more enjoyable. When I upgraded my knifes, not only did I no longer mind tedious prep work and mise en place, but I started to really enjoy challenging myself to more precise knife work.