April 28, 2017

Tim Kuang Van Loan on taking risks in life and in the kitchen

Post by Felicia

Tomas and I have both known Tim for years, a decade each in fact. He’s a quirky guy in the best possible way. Tim’s passionate about life. Friends, cocktails, costumes, and dancing have always been a big part of who he is and how he we both know him. But, one may wonder, how did this energetic guy end up working in a multi-Michelin star kitchen?

Tim staged at Quince here in SF, which recently received their third Michelin star. The man had no prior professional cooking experience so, how the heck did THAT happen…

The short answer is he asked. While at an event at The Commonwealth Club, Tim got up during a Q&A wanting to know how someone in tech could transition to the culinary world. Michael Tusk‘s response, ‘Come work with me.’

Charles Pham from the Slanted Door, and Michael Tusk, who’s the co-owner and head chef of Quince, were the James Beard winners that year. They were in conversation with someone from the Chronicle. When they opened for questions, I was the first in line.

I had rehearsed and was like, San Francisco is this incredible place, where food and technology intersect like no where else in the world. What advice would you give to someone who comes from a technical background, but would like to make their way in the industry?

Michael Tusk looks at me and was like, why don’t you work for me. No idea who I was, no idea of my background, no idea if I could f*cking cook. So I said alright. That was the end of my question.

Tim followed up at the cocktail reception. Tusk tells him to come by Saturday with knives and sturdy shoes and they would make it work.

The crazy thing, according to Tim, is that a buddy of his was working at Zuni and Tim already asked for help breaking into food. His friend said he couldn’t and that without experience there was no way in. After the Commonwealth event, Michael Tusk went to Zuni for dinner. That same friend congratulated Tusk for winning the James Beard. They chatted quickly about the event and Tim ‘the computer guy’ came up in conversation. Then Tusk tells the friend that Tim ‘starts on Saturday.’

What ended up happening? Tusk treated Tim like any other chef. He worked every station. Tusk called him chef so everyone called him chef, assuming he had a background.

After his stage ended, Quince offered him a job paying $32,000 a year, which was a decent salary in the world of food. Needless to say, Tim chose to stick to his tech job and keep cooking as his passion.


Chicken in Red Vinegar Sauce
A recipe for Chicken in Red Vinegar Sauce by Tomas Puig.
  1. For the Braised Chicken
  2. 1 whole chicken, dressed
  3. 1 1/2 tbsp of butter, unsalted
  4. Salt, as necessary
  5. 1 cup red wine vinegar
  6. 10-16 cloves of garlic
  7. 3 tomatoes
  8. 1 bunch roughly-chopped celery
  9. For the Vinaigrette
  10. 3 tbsp dijon mustard
  11. 2-3 tbsp canola oil
  12. 1 celery root
  13. 1 bunch finely-chopped celery
  14. For the Bouquet Garni
  15. 2 medium pieces of leek
  16. 1 small bunch of parsley
  17. 1 small bunch of thyme
  18. 2-3 pinches of peppercorn
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  1. Braised Chicken
  2. 1. Separate chicken into legs, thighs, and breasts. Set aside wings and back.
  3. 2. Prepare pot by heating unsalted butter in it.
  4. 3. Season chicken pieces with salt.
  5. 4. Sear chicken in pot, placing it skin-side first.
  6. 5. Once the skin-side of the chicken is seared, flip each piece and sear for another 2 minutes and switch to low heat.
  7. 6. Put the garlic cloves in the pot along with the seared chicken and cover for about 10 minutes.
  8. 7. Add the cup of vinegar to the pot and simmer in medium heat.
  9. 8. Skin celery root and chop into small pieces and place in water before heating in microwave.
  10. 9. Chop tomatoes into smaller pieces and separate the core.
  11. 10. Once the vinegar is reduced, add the tomatoes to the pot and cover for another 10 minutes.
  12. 11. Take the chicken out of the pot and drain the rest of the contents using a strainer to make the sauce.
  13. 12. Add chicken stock and a bit of pepper to the sauce and reduce until consistency is thick enough to coat mixing spoon.
  14. 13. Put chicken in plate and garnish with the sauce and sprinkle with roughly-chopped parsley.
  15. Preparing the Bouquet Garni
  16. 1. Put thyme, parsley, and pepper corn on top of one of the leek pieces.
  17. 2. Cover with second leek piece.
  18. 3. Tie up with string and put in stock.
  19. Preparing the Celery Root Salad
  20. 1. Mix the Dijon mustard with about 1 1/2 tbsp of vinegar.
  21. 2. While mixing, slowly add canola oil to the vinaigrette .
  22. 3. Mix in with chopped celery root and sprinkle with finely-chopped parsley.
Tomas Puig's Test Kitchen https://tomascooking.com/