Chef Derrick Teh: Flavors of Malaysia
When I first started working at PAGU, I was working the host stand. I was a bit nervous when I first started - I had many jobs prior to the role at the host stand, and I'd head into this role at the restaurant after my day job at the pharmaceutical company, but none of my previous roles were specifically in the restaurant or hospitality industry. At the end of a Saturday evening, he called the phone at the host stand from expo and I nervously picked up.
This was a few weeks into me working at the stand, and at this point I was riding solo, but I had actually never talked to him or several people in back of house. My conversations at the host stand were also quite brief with the front of house crew for some time. My experience working as a host is a whole other story I will get into another day though.
As I was saying, Chef called the phone at the host stand from expo. He asked me a simple question: Are we all in? I didn't pick up all of the jargon within the restaurant yet (there are a lot of niche phrases I had to learn, I realized this quickly after our conversation), and without being frustrated that I didn't understand the question, he quickly rephrased, not missing a beat, and asked me if there were any more reservations on the books.
It may seem small and trivial, but this was a moment where I realized and respected his willingness to pause and explain (in a high-level overview due to the fast-paced environment) as opposed to getting frustrated and upset over my lack of knowledge .
The time that I worked with Derrick, one of the opening chefs of PAGU, was brief, but in that short period time of working together combined with the after-work drinks around the Cambridge area, I got to know him a bit better and learn of his experience working in Providence, RI prior to heading up to Cambridge. We talked about our dreams for ourselves and what we want to accomplish and focus on in the future - I won't share too much, but he has an incredible vision in mind.
Chef Chris Chung brought Chef Derrick Teh into Momi Nonmi for a six-course pop-up on Monday, March 19.
Chef Derrick joked saying this was all comfort food he was making, but in a "warms up the belly" kind of way.
I have only had Malaysian food a handful of times, and this meal was exactly as Chef described it. By the end of the meal, I felt happiness emitting from the belly up. I personally am not typically a fan of spicy food for the sake of spicy, but these dishes had a spice that truly complimented the flavor of the overall dish (in my opinion). Sweet, savory, spicy.
The third course, Palementes & Rock Shrimp, was reminiscent of my childhood when my mom would make a bowl of rice with the dried shrimp on top. The Rendang was my favorite - pork belly and the sticky rice that was wrapped in the banana leaf. Succulent, juicy, melt-in-your-mouth amazing pork belly. The rice reminds me of the Banh Chung that my mom makes for Lunar New Year - but this was far more savory and gluttonous, in a good way.
It was great to catch up with Chef Derrick following the meal, even if for a short period of time. He was incredibly humbled throughout the wrap-up of the evening, saying thank you to all who attended. It was fantastic to see familiar faces attend the pop-up in support of Chef, but also amazing to see new faces experience what Chef Derrick Teh has to offer.
Like I said, Chef Derrick Teh has a great vision in sight. Whether he executes his vision here in the greater Boston area or elsewhere, I hope either way I am able to see this vision come to life.
Surprisingly, I still have yet to go to Momi Nonmi for Chef Chris Chung, so this will definitely be on my list next (if not soon).
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