Celebrity chef Will Meyrick reflects on his varied career, as Mama San celebrates its fifth anniversary in Hong Kong.
Born in Portugal, raised in Scotland, and now presiding over an international restaurant empire from his home in Bali, Will Meyrick’s career has taken many twists and turns.
He didn’t plan to be a chef but fell into the industry at the urging of his mother at a time when he cheerfully admits he needed “structure” in his life. “My mum said everyone needs to cook,” he recalls. “You can travel with it and you can use it to see the world, so that’s what I did.”
After a one-year course, he started working in the London restaurant industry. From the outset, he appreciated the egalitarian aspect of life in the kitchen. “When you come from a private school background and you go into the kitchen, especially in the UK, you don’t get jobs on account of who you are or your family connections; it’s whether you can do it or not do it,” he notes.
He also got a buzz out of knowing people enjoyed his food. “When you don’t do well at school academically, it’s hard,” he says. “Through cooking you get gratification; people say thank you and you feel you have achieved something. That is what kept me interested in cooking.”
He first got the urge to cook Asian food while working in London, so he decided to start travelling through Southeast Asia, before ending up in Sydney. He credits his time in Australia’s biggest city as setting the foundation for much of his success. He worked in some of Sydney’s hippest restaurants, Longrain and Jimmy Liks, and won accolades as one of the city’s hottest young chefs.
Returning to Southeast Asia, Will has subsequently opened a string of restaurants in the region; one of these is Mama San in Bali, which he then expanded into the Hong Kong market. The HK branch of the restaurant is now celebrating five successful years in a notoriously cut-throat restaurant scene.
Will loves his lifestyle in Bali, but comes up to Hong Kong a few times a year to check on his restaurant, which he describes as specialising in accessible Asian flavours. Known around the world as the Street Food Chef, Will says he always knew he wanted to run restaurants, but admits his success has been a combination of hard work and good timing. “Cooking is probably the only industry where you can come from nothing and become something without an education,” he says. “You walk in and you are peeling potatoes and five years later you can be running the best restaurant in town.”
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This article first appeared in the April/May 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.