Datuk Dr Redzuawan Ismail, better known as Chef Wan Ismail worked as an accountant in a bank for seven years before deciding to start his career in becoming a chef. He is Malaysia’s Culinary Ambassador and is renowned for his extensive knowledge of Malaysian cuisine with over 25 years of experience in the industry. Chef Wan Ismail gives a lot of motivational talks at schools, colleges, universities and corporate companies to inspire others on global brand achievements, and also share his life’s history and success. In an interview with Asean Food & Travel, the celebrity chef shares about his life experiences and his new Social Media Platform, ‘Chef Wan Lifestyle’.
Datuk Dr Redzuawan Ismail’s celebrity status included being an actor, talk-show host, food critic and Malaysian magazine writer, cookbook author, comedian, entrepreneur, lecturer, speaker, and food ambassador. During the last twenty-six years he has hosted cooking shows all over the world and has several cookbooks published by an international publisher. He also starred on stage and acted in films. As a culinary expert and international chef, he has cooked for many famous personalities, including the Sultan of Brunei and the former U.S. President, Bill Clinton.
“I studied at the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco,” reminisces Chef Wan Ismail who graduated as one of the top students among 300 students. “I worked in San Francisco for a few years and later worked in Hawaii as a private chef,” says Chef Wan Ismail. “I also worked in Vancouver and I have been working abroad for fourteen years. When I returned to Malaysia, I started appearing on television shows. This is my 26th year as a celebrity chef.”
Over the years, the enterprising chef has won numerous awards and was even appointed as Adjunct Professor (Ijazah Kehormat Doktor Falsafah, Seni Kulinari) by Universiti Utara Malaysia’s Tourism Management, Hospitality and Environmental School in Sintok, Kedah in 2017.
The multi-talented chef’s shows are shown worldwide. He is the food ambassador of Tourism Malaysia and has acted in several movies and even in musical theatres. “I’ve hosted my own talk show and even a game show,” says Chef Wan Ismail excitedly.
“I’ve been travelling around the world and I came up with the idea to create a platform called Chef Wan Lifestyle. I approached Scicom, whom I‘ve personally known for many years, to help me. They have years of experience in Customer Contact Management and a Digital Marketing team with the right expertise that fits my Marketing needs. It was important to me that Chef Wan Lifestyle be associated with such a company. Scicom has handled many big Brands successfully, both locally and internationally. We launched Chef Wan Lifestyle on January 8th 2021. People can now look up information about me and I could do some digital marketing on the website,” says Chef Wan Ismail. “In future, I would like to create some columns on my website regarding world travel and restaurant reviews to enable people to get ideas on which restaurant to dine in. I would also like to share my opinion about the restaurants’ dishes on my website.”
Datuk Dr. Redzuawan also sells cookware and kitchen appliances on Chef Wan Lifestyle. “I also love wearing batik shirts and I plan on having my own batik shirt and casual wear clothing line that are suitable to be worn in tropical climates or at the beach,” says Chef Wan Ismail enthusiastically. “I would also like to share about the sources of food-related products to my fans in the future.”
“Another passion of mine is sharing about cooking programmes that have inspired me during my travels. It would also be my pleasure to educate people on the knowledge about food and its preparation. It would also be fun to have a live chat session with fans,” says Chef Wan Ismail who is also interested in introducing some interior decoration products and gardening tips to his fans.
“I enjoy sharing recipes and cuisines that I have learned during my work travels. Sometimes, I would attend classes taught by chefs from Italy or Spain,” says the creative chef who also shares his signature dishes on his website. “I believe that people are looking forward to learning how to prepare meals with an easy, quick and simple method.
As a celebrity chef, many people are interested in learning about Chef Wan Ismail’s life experiences and listen to his advice, as he is a successful, fun and knowledgeable chef and restaurateur. “I am invited to motivational talks because I have many wonderful life experiences and I will share my life history and opinions about life to inspire people.”
“I think that a chef needs to be motivated and driven. The most important characteristic is to have the right attitude. Working as a chef, I have encountered people who are not disciplined and focused on what they are doing,” shares the inspiring chef. “There are also people who do not prioritise personal hygiene and they are also very messy. These encounters were notable challenges that I had to face.”
Being a highly motivated, hardworking and disciplined person, Chef Wan Ismail rarely has problems dealing with people. “My staff usually understand what I want whenever I give them a task. They are usually happy and excited to work under me,” says the famous chef. “I’m always encouraging my staff to perform their best and I will provide lots of training, guidance, advice and supervision. I would also praise and reward them whenever they do well in their job.”
“For the last twenty years, I used to be a workaholic and didn’t have much time for my personal life,” says Chef Wan Ismail. “I travel a lot for work but lately, I’m more relaxed and I’ll spend time enjoying the fruits of my labour at home. I’m also a very positive person who enjoys moving forward in life. I’m passionate about many things and I get excited over things easily. I believe that feeling happy, being healthy and possessing a positive mindset are important traits that everyone should have.”
Chef Wan Ismail advises young people who are interested to pursue a career in culinary arts to have a thirst for knowledge. “Young people can acquire knowledge by travelling, attending cooking school, reading, dining out, training their palates and associating themselves with many people in the food industry.”
“Those who wish to pursue a career in this field would need to be driven, strong-minded and very motivated. Chefs put a lot of hard work and effort in what they do as they are not easily pleased with the results achieved,” says the inspiring chef. “Being a chef isn’t only about working in a kitchen. You would need to maintain a good work pace, maintain personal hygiene and be organised. Chefs should also be healthy and follow a healthy eating pattern too.”
Chef Wan Ismail also shares that chefs could take up gardening as a hobby to learn about the nutrition value of food sources. “Besides gardening, chefs should learn to run a restaurant or kitchen and understand the cost of food. They would also need to learn about management skills. They can learn these skills by reading relevant books,” says the chef. “Always give the best to your customers. You would need to sacrifice a lot of time and set a high standard to give the best as there are many competitors out there.”
“At the end of the day, it’s not only about being a creative cook, it’s about being someone with wisdom and knowledge. It is also important to have knowledge about nutrition so you can prepare good quality food,” says Chef Wan Ismail.