We're giving away a table for two at the Unrestricted Dinner by Dan Hong. Enter here.

Somewhere along the line, “fusion” became a dirty word in dining circles. But Dan Hong is okay with it. “For a few years that word was sort of frowned upon,” says the high-profile chef. “But I don't mind it. To be honest, my food is fusion, but it's delicious.”

Anyone with a TV or internet connection will be familiar with Dan Hong’s story. A punk kid more interested in weed and graffiti, Hong tanked his HSC. But fortunes changed after his mum got him a job in the kitchen at Longrain. Hong finished his apprenticeship under Mark Best, who pushed the young chef to take risks while maintaining the exacting discipline of his craft.

Hong then worked under Tetsuya Wakuda at Tetsuya’s, headed up Bentley in Surry Hills, did a stint at the legendary WD-50 in New York and returned to Sydney to open Ms G’s in Potts Point. There he offers a skilful blend of Chinese, Vietnamese and Korean influences with a hint of Americana, under the Merivale banner. It made him a household name.

These days he oversees a stable of notable Merivale hot spots including Mr Wong, Ms G’s, Est and El Loco. Tens of thousands follow his Instagram account, which documents his affection for sneakers, his three kids, and whatever he’s eating at the moment. Hundreds of thousands more watch him on cooking shows; he’s appeared on Masterchef, #Shelfie and The Chef’s Line. But it’s not the celebrity part of “celebrity chef” that’s made Dan Hong a huge success – it’s his bright, inventive and primarily delicious food.

Melbourne diners are about to see what all the fuss is about when Hong sets up in the kitchen at Maha for two nights. The chef will appear as part of Maha’s Unrestricted Dinner series presented by Kennedy, which invites interstate chefs to take over Shane Delia’s Middle Eastern restaurant and offer the best of what they do at their own venues.

The series kicked off in May with a two-night appearance from award-winning South Australian chef Lachlan Colwill of Hentley Farm. Then in June executive chef Paul Carmichael of Momofuku Seiobo in Sydney was in the kitchen. Each dinner in the series presents a bespoke menu which captures the chef's distinctive style, and features one dish inspired by Kennedy as creators of “Moments in Time”.

Hong says 6000 people eat at his restaurants every week. “I always tell my chefs I'd rather eat something that didn't look great and tasted delicious, than something that looked amazing and tasted just okay,” he says. “A lot of chefs, when they start being a head chef, they just want to cook really refined food. But it's not the type of food that people want to eat all the time. People don't mind eating it once a month or whatever. I take pride in cooking food that people crave. That's the reason we have regulars at Mr Wong that come in three, four times a week for lunch.”

After working under iconic chefs such as Tetsuya and Wylie Dufresne, Hong’s perfectly comfortable with foams and dehydrators. But around the time he opened Ms G’s, the influence of David Chang’s Momofuku was critical.

“I found Chang really influential in the early years when he just released his cookbook,” says Hong. “When we first opened Ms G's we were a fine-dining chain. So we applied all these techniques and tools we learned through fine dining. Then we decided to throw all the rules out the door. If we wanted to do, for example, burrata with a strange-flavoured sesame sauce and chilli oil, we'd try it. And if it was delicious, then it would go on the menu.”

The approach has become familiar – there’s a lot of high-concept street-food and natural wine being served to the sounds of Wu-Tang at the moment. But when Ms G’s opened, it was a novelty. “When Ms G's first opened there was no one really doing what we were doing,” says Hong. “I mean now there's a million restaurants like Ms G's, sort of modern Asian food, playing loud hip-hop, serving bubble teas and everything like that. But I'm pretty sure Ms G's was the first one in Australia that had that really fun modern-Asian-restaurant theme.”

While Hong might have abandoned many of the formal trappings of the fine-dining restaurant, he hasn’t forgotten them in the kitchen. The basic equation of his cuisine is “(traditional dishes + great produce) x contemporary technique = Flavour Country.”

“When you look at Chinese restaurants these days you usually go to a Chinese restaurant just for the food. The wine list isn't great. The service isn’t great. The ambience is usually not that good. And the produce is not amazing unless you're getting live seafood,” he says. “So we decided to do the whole package. We decided to have an amazing wine list, incredible service, an unbelievable dining room, use the best produce Australia has, and do modern takes on certain Chinese dishes that Australian people grew up with. That was the secret to Mr Wong.”

That recipe, which is continuously under the pressure of mutation and natural selection, has made Hong’s restaurants among the most popular in the country. Being a household name has its downsides, though. “I guess when I was a bit younger I could sort of Tweet and Instagram whatever I wanted and not really care,” he says. “These days I can’t. It's not like I'm a different person on social media, but these days you can't really piss anyone off. But, it's good. As long as it brings customers to my restaurants, the more the better.”

The third event in Maha’s Unrestricted Dinner series, presented by Kennedy and featuring guest chef Dan Hong, takes place at Maha on Monday September 3 and Tuesday September 4. Places are extremely limited. Book seats now.

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Kennedy, Australia's finest luxury retailer of the world’s most desired watches and jewellery. Kennedy provides a memorable experience for its clients with personalised service and exceptional product knowledge. Find your nearest Kennedy boutique.