“I was so worried about Kylie being in my silly little apartment,” says Anna Healy, winner of our competition to have a home-cooked dinner with Kylie Kwong. “I didn’t know if she’d cope with the size, or how I should set the table. I just couldn’t picture her being in my home.” Pre-dinner jitters seem reasonable when you’re hosting the head chef and owner of Billy Kwong, one of the most popular restaurants in Sydney – right?
When Kwong arrived at Healy’s Marrickville apartment to cook for her and five fortunate friends, the small size of the kitchen was not a problem. As Kwong explains, “It’s all about working with what you’ve got.” Armed with her wok, locally sourced produce and a selection of new sauces from her Woolworths Cooking With Kylie Kwong range, Kwong whipped up an eight-course feast that impressed everyone at Healy’s table.
The menu consisted of, “Fresh, simple and local dishes that demystify preconceived conceptions that Cantonese cooking is hard,” says Kwong. Ocean trout tartare; steamed prawn dumplings; Chinese-style coleslaw; sweet-and-sour chicken; honey-and-ginger prawns; and the infamous Billy Kwong pork buns with house chilli and tamari were prepared in a step-by-step demonstration, then presented at the kitchen table.
“Often we think we need to get fancy and decadent, but the dishes Kylie put up were simple, unpretentious and delicious,” says Healy. “It was a reminder for me to get back to real simplicity – it helped me believe that I could create these dishes too.”
A mutual passion for food, family and having a laugh meant Kwong, Healy and her guests could have a fun evening of insights and cooking education. For Kwong, seeing her family’s traditions and food come to life in a real home was both humbling and rewarding.
“It was wonderful for me to experience such delight. It was highly spirited, which is what home cooking is all about. I felt like I was at a friend’s house from the beginning.”
Healy and her friends are still in disbelief at the evening they shared with one of their culinary idols.
“Kylie is known as a visionary chef and an amazing restaurant owner, but we were not expecting such a kind, humble, approachable and incredible woman to turn up. She is exceptional and I feel so fortunate to have witnessed her passion in everything she cooks, up close.”