A Day’s Work With Chef YC of Terra Dining

Chef YC, chef-owner of Terra Dining, shares his journey of unearthing Malaysian culinary tales—a serendipitous fusion of passion and circumstance.
Chef YC Terra Dining

Chef YC of Terra Dining

Nestled in TTDI lies Terra Dining—a fine dining oasis helmed by Chef Chong Yu Cheng. Unlike the early risers who greet the dawn with vigour, Chef YC, is a self-proclaimed night owl. He begins his day closer to the time when he needs to head to the restaurant. His mornings are a balance of preparation and precision. Spending a day alongside him, we discovered how the Chef-Owner brings a unique genius to his work.

My entry into the industry was a happy accident. I founded Above Gastrobar with absolutely no experience in F&B. It all began when my love for wine coincided with my business partner’s discovery of a rooftop garden in the heart of Ipoh Old Town. Upon visiting, I instantly fell in love with the location, and the rest is history. However, as demand for food grew stronger than for wine, Above Gastrobar naturally transitioned from a wine bar to a full-fledged restaurant, prompting me to embrace the role of chef with open arms.

I’m deeply passionate about Malaysian ingredients, especially the lesser-known ones that have been forgotten or underutilised. I believe it’s my mission to explore and showcase this biodiversity through innovative cuisine. Recognising that local cuisine is underrepresented on the global culinary stage, I opened Terra Dining to celebrate and share Malaysia’s rich culinary heritage with the world.

Terra means Earth in Latin, and Earth is the shared home that sustains us all. It indulges us with its richness, providing an endless ecosystem of grains, vegetables, fruits, livestock, game, and seafood. As a Malaysian produce-driven restaurant, we are dedicated to working with the bounties that Earth offers.


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My mornings start with a meticulous review of the day’s reservations and preparation lists for each kitchen section. The kitchen soon buzzes with activity, a well-rehearsed consonance of chopping, stirring, and seasoning. By late noon, we gather for a cherished ritual—the family meal. During this time, the staff shares not just food, but a sense of unity, fueling us for the evening ahead.

As we don our chef jackets, the kitchen transforms into a theatre of culinary excellence. This moment is dedicated to flawless execution. I man the pass, ensuring every dish meets our exacting standards before it is sent out. My role also involves stepping into the dining room to interact with customers, adding a personal touch to their dining experience.

The dynamic nature of being a chef-owner is truly fulfilling. Steering the ship of menu development and recipe creation keeps me creatively engaged, always striving to breathe life into innovative culinary concepts. Beyond the kitchen, I relish connecting with event organizers, media, and producers. My passion for wine adds another layer of enjoyment, as I craft unique pairings that enhance the dining experience at Terra.

Our menu is a delightful fusion of flavours, borrowing elements from Malay, Chinese, Indian, and Peranakan cuisines. Each dish serves as a tribute to our vibrant cultural tapestry. A shining example is our beef dish, featuring tender beef cheek lovingly pressure-cooked in rendang sauce—an homage to Malay cuisine. It’s complemented by a Thai basil palak, inspired by both Indian palak paneer and Chinese san bei ji. This exquisite blend of flavours perfectly embodies Terra’s dedication to fostering cultural unity through the culinary arts.

Yet, it’s often the most brilliant ideas that arise from the most unexpected combinations. My approach to developing new dishes harmoniously blends scientific research with a touch of serendipity. Whenever inspiration strikes, I delve into research to uncover any similar concepts and explore how I can enrich them with my own touch.

Chef YC Terra Dining

Memorable interactions with guests shine as highlights of my career. One particularly special moment unfolded with a couple, J and E, who graced Terra shortly after its grand opening. They admired the restaurant’s emphasis on local ingredients and engaged in a delightful conversation about literature and cinema. Remarkably, a week later, J returned bearing a thoughtful gift for me—a book called “Sang Kancil: A Tale about How Ordinary Malaysians Defied the Odds.” I eagerly immersed myself in the book over the next two days, feeling the profound connections forged through our shared love of food.

Prioritisation is key during bustling restaurant service. Our exclusive focus on dinner service allows us to tackle the bulk of preparations in advance. In my daily duties, I oversee the preparation process, ensuring the quality of ingredients, providing guidance to the chefs, and tasting each dish to ensure it aligns perfectly with the exacting standards.

Establishing Terra Dining presented its fair share of challenges, especially in staffing. Maintaining quality amidst a team lacking experience proved to be a significant hurdle. However, through diligent training and instilling a sense of responsibility, my young team has admirably risen to the occasion.

One of the most valuable business lessons I’ve learned is to avoid following the crowd. Educating the market can be a costly endeavour. Rather than competing solely on price, I focus on showcasing our abilities. This philosophy shapes my innovative approach to crafting menus.

Chef YC Terra Dining

By embracing diverse avenues of creativity, I revel in creating offerings that are refreshingly unconventional. While this relentless pursuit of innovation may occasionally challenge my sanity, it ultimately ignites Terra’s unique culinary essence, setting us apart in a world of culinary conformity.

No business exists in isolation. It’s vital to carve out time to connect with fellow industry peers; you’ll discover a community of kindred souls. In the realm of hospitality, genuine warmth and joy are the secret ingredients. So, cherish every step of your journey with delight.

Visit Terra Dining for more.

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