Kylie Kwong: philosophical foodie

G Magazine

The renowned Sydney-based chef shares her recipe for success.

Kylie Kwong

Credit: Petrina Hicks

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Kylie Kwong is where most of us would be ecstatic to be: entirely at ease with who she is and blissfully enthused about what she's doing.

"I finally feel comfortable within my own skin," explains the energetic Sydney-based chef renowned for her approach to modern Chinese cuisine.

Kwong still radiates the unpretentious edge that is the hallmark of her TV cooking shows. But these days she also exudes the contented, confident aura that comes with completing a comprehensive journey of self-discovery.

And as the way forward rolls out, a new role for Kwong is emerging as a spokesperson on matters environmental.

In particular, she's becoming known as an advocate for organic food and the sustainable use of natural resources.

Rite of passage

This is no bandwagon upon which Kwong has suddenly jumped as the nation turns green in the shadow of climate change and dwindling water resources - more the culmination of a lifetime of learning and searching.

While her public metamorphosis is relatively recent, it follows a lengthy rite of passage that began in the late 1980s when, as a 19-year-old just out of an all-girl's high school, Kwong realised she was looking for more from life than many of her peers.

"[My girlfriends] were always reading fashion magazine and talking about fashion...really superficial things," she recalls.

"It's what girls do at that age and I enjoyed it for a while but quickly got over it and was bored. Although I couldn't articulate it then, I realise now I needed to express my artistic side and wasn't doing that."

She waves vaguely at the dining room and kitchen of her Sydney eatery Billy Kwong, renown for its menu, friendly tea-house atmosphere and queues of diners who accept the no-reservations policy to wait on the footpath for a table.

She now understands, her gesturing implies, this is what she needed to indulge her creativity.

Focus found

Kwong embarked on a working life in graphic design and advertising. But she continued to be achingly unsettled and, with her mind bursting with questions, began pursuing a string of personal development courses.

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