Datuk Redzuawan bin Ismail
I was born, Redzuawan Bin Ismail, in Singapore in 1958. I am the eldest in a family of seven children. I qualified as an accountant but due to my passion for cooking, I later became a professional chef. I have an associate degree in Professional Chef Training and Hotel Management from the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, United States. I also have a Ritz Escoffeir Diploma (Ecole Ritz-Esscoffier De Gastronomie Francaise) from the Ritz Hotel in Paris, France.
An Actor, Entertainer, enthusiastic and vibrant entrepreneur who’s talents are not limited to just his exceptional culinary skills. A demanding professional at all times with an over whelming passion to introduce and excite the world with the unique flavours of Malaysian Cuisine. Chef Wan is on a mission …………
Though we all know him affectionately as Chef Wan, his real name is Redzuawan Ismail. His cultural heritage simulates that of the diverse mix of cultures that makes up the Malaysian Cuisine we know today. On his mother’s side, his grandfather is Japanese whilst his grandmother is of Peranakan decent. His mother, Norani, was born and lived in Singapore where her family were settled. On his father’s side, his grandfather is of Pulau-Bengkalis, Indonesia decent whist his grandmother is of Javanese decent. It is his parents that migrated to Malaysia settling in Malacca.
It was whilst Norani and Ismail were working in Singapore at the Royal Air Force base that they met. Norani, was working for the NAAFI (Navy, Army and Air Force Institute) in the Air Force base shop, Ismail was stationed there with the British Royal Air Force. Their relationship grew and they married in 1957.
Redzuawan Ismail was born in Singapore. At the age of three the whole family moved to Malaysia firstly to Kuala Lumpur. His father by this time had transferred from working for the British Royal Air Force to the Malaysian Air Force. The family lived on the Air Force base. It was here with his 6 younger brothers, that Radzuawan first developed a taste for cooking and it was here, that the first signs of his entrepreneurial skills also came to light. Living on an Air Force base provided a captive audience and an opportunity to earn extra money for the family. Learning the art of cooking from his mother and grandmother with mixed with his natural inquisitive and experimental nature; the basic culinary skills were honed.
Always energetic and always with passion, the young ‘Chef’ was quick to realise what living on an Air Force base could offer the young entrepreneur. A captivate audience was perfect for him to develop his culinary skills and build a small business providing food for weddings and other celebrations on the base ……. very successfully.
From this small but successful beginning, Redzuawan could see a future ahead that would satisfy his passion for cooking and make a living from doing so. Unfortunately his father did not share his views. He did not agree with this choice of profession and discourage him for following that line of profession insisting and actively encouraged him to follow a more ‘serious’ career path. Reluctantly the cooking utensils were put to one side and Radzuawan turned his energies into study, as an accountant!!
Typically, Redzuawan Ismail, studied hard and qualified as accountant and started a career in the corporate world of business. But the passion for cooking could not be dulled. It was like one life living inside another. The Accountant and the Chef.
The ‘un-natural’ corporate world of finance really was not suitable and could not was not satisfying the inner chef. Like a butterfly that inevitably and naturally emerges from its cocoon, Redzuawan finally broke through his own ‘cocoon’ of the corporate world and emerged as a vibrant, colourful, creative, raw and natural talent that grew to be known affectionately as “Chef Wan”. Passionate, professional and as exotic of his beloved Malaysia, his unique culinary skills were unlocked.
Being the professional that he is, the young Chef Wan made the decision to further hone and perfect his talents by attending cookery schools and academies outside of Malaysia. With typical drive and enthusiasm the young Chef Wan successfully trained at the California Culinary Academy and the Ritz Hotel's Ritz-Escoffier Ecole de Gastronomie Francaise. A perfectionist from the outset, he naturally graduated with degrees in Professional Chef Training and Hotel Management.
Unable to suppress the effervescent showman and master Chef, this raw talent was quickly note by those around him. Invitations to cook and perform came abound and soon he was cooking for the famous elite all over the world including the likes of the Sultan of Brunei and the former U.S. President, Bill Clinton. The real Radzuawan Ismail, alias Chef Wan, had arrived and the world’s stage awaited to taste and experiences his exquisite and unique Malaysian foods.
Today in Asia with more than 25 years of experience within the industry, Chef Wan is a household name. The multi award winning celebrity Chef is known both near and far as a chef, Author, Actor and TV Host with his comprehensive knowledge of Malaysian cuisine, Chef Wan is in constant demand. There are always invitations from around the world for him to give talks and demonstrations. China, Germany, London, Canada, Spain, Australia and all over Europe, his infectious style never fails to entertain and educate.
In recent years at the World Gourmet Food and Media Awards in Beijing 2007, Chef Wan was awarded the Lifetime Jury Award at the "Le Mazille Prix Gourmand” for his contributions as the Culinary Ambassador of Malaysia to the world. In 2009 he was rewarded with the highest recognition for any Celebrity Chef with the title of ‘Best Celebrity Chef Award’ at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in Paris. Beating 250 chefs to the title, Chef Wan remained typically himself responding to receiving of the award as “a complete surprise, this is such a prestigious award. Was I dreaming? There are so many other chefs like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson and many more that equally deserve receiving this. I am very grateful and honoured to have receive such an award and to have been internationally recognized”.
For his contribution and role as Food Ambassador for Malaysia at various global gourmet events, world expos and tourism exhibitions, Chef Wan was bestowed the title of 'Datuk' (which is like being knighted) by King Yang Di-Pertuan Agong in February 2010. He had previously turned down the title 4 times before: “I wasn’t ready for it. Being a Datuk is such a responsibility.” It was his mother that finally got him to accept. "I initially wanted to turn it down again," he said. "But my mum woke me up at 8am and forced me to sign the acceptance letter on the deadline day. My mum said she was already 78 and she could die tomorrow. And she would die in vain if she couldn't see me getting my Datukship. She said I deserved it 'coz I've worked so hard and cried so hard for my job. So I accepted it for her."
More recently, his international recognition has even captured the attention of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, which, on behalf of the government and Royal Kingdom of Thailand, bestowed upon him with the 'Friends of Thailand Award' in September 2010. Shortly after he was appointed to be the Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Holiday Travel Icon Ambassador in November 2010 and will be creating gourmet packages for inbound and outbound holidays to and from Malaysia. His role as MAS Travel Icon Ambassador will also show him and his fans in a new reality series where they explore the world and its different cuisines.
Achievement and Award
September 2010 – ‘Friends of Thailand Award’ from Royal kingdom of Thailand
February 2010 –Conferred Datukship by the King, Yang Dipertuan Agung, Malaysia.
July 2009 – ‘The Celebrity Chef in the world Award’ in World Gourmand Cookbook & Media Awards in Paris.
April 2009 – AMP Award from King of Majapahit at the Keraton Palace, Suraharta Hadiningrat, jawa, Indonesia.
October 2007 – Honourary Fellowship Award from Thames Valley University of London School of Hospitality.
2007 – ‘Lifetime Jury Award’ at the Le Mazille Prix’ at World Gourmand food & Media Awards in Beijing.
August 2007 – Chosen as one of 8 most outstanding Malaysian of the year in celebration of Malaysia 50th Independent Day by NTV7August 2007 – Prominent Modern Malay Chef Award by UiTM, Pulau Pinang.