Flash-grilled: Felipe Preece

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Flash-grilled with chef Felipe Preece

Related tags: Chef, London, Street food

Chef Felipe Preece is behind Japanese-Latin street food brand Sugoi JPN. His second concept, Just Yuca, recently launched at Old Street Brewery in Bethnal Green.

What was your first job?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur and had my first “business adventure” when I was just 10 years old. I typed articles on my Apple II Plus for a friend of the family that did not have time to do it and at the same time I washed cars by hand and bought groceries for my neighbours during the weekends. The first time that I worked as en employee for a company was as a pilot for an airline company.

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?
I don’t really have one, I just enjoy eating everything.

What’s the best restaurant meal you’ve ever had?
It’s impossible to decide on the best one, but certainly the most memorable was a whole day, totally sensory experience at Galipan in Venezuela. It was in 2013, and featured 12 courses complete with wine pairing and amazing Caribbean Sea views. The restaurant was called Recoveco, but I don’t know if it’s still open.

What industry figure do you most admire, and why?
Without any doubt the Master Jiro Ono. He is eighty something and says he is still learning after a whole life of hard work, discipline and dedication to the art of sushi; he’s so inspirational.

If you weren’t in kitchens, what would you do?
Flying a small tourist/cargo hydroplane in a remote tropical island.

What is your biggest regret?
I believe we are who we are because of our experiences. I cannot regret anything, otherwise I would be a totally different person.

Pet hate in the kitchen?
People saying they have an allergy when the truth is they are ashamed to mention a dislike. Or when somebody is eating something just because it is a trend.

What’s the oddest thing a customer has said to you?
How are you the owner if you are an immigrant, you should work for us and not the other way around.

What’s the dish you wish you’d thought of?
Mochi ice cream.

Describe your cooking style in three words
Japanese-Latin free style.

Most overrated food?
The food served at some casual dinning “frozen food” restaurants chain.

Restaurant dictator for a day – what would you ban?
Rules; you would be surprised at what people can do when they are thinking outside the box and have the freedom and the opportunity to create, share their dreams and ideas and express themselves.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever had?
I do not pay attention to negativity. Usually when I get a bad review it is from people with wrong intentions. Toxicity is not allowed in my kitchen or home. Sometimes we have negative constructive critics, those are the reviews I listen to and take into consideration for improvement. I would not consider it as a bad review. In fact it’s the total opposite, those are the best ones.

If you could cook for anyone in the world who would you pick, and why?
Right now, if I could, it would be for the hungry kids living in my home country of Venezuela.

What advice would you give someone starting out in the industry?
There is a lot of important things like studying, learning, practising, setting clear ideas and goals from the beginning, and going for it with all you got. Be patient, do not doubt your concept and do not do anything without a strategy. Knowledge and anticipation is everything, but without passion your game is going to be over sooner or later. Remember, you need to be happy to succeed.

Which single item of kitchen equipment could you not live without?
We can cook with anything we have in nature, but a nice knife will make it easier.

What do you cook at home on your days off?
I always make different things with the left overs; I love to do crazy things.

What’s your earliest food memory?
Eating mango picked fresh from the trees, and “raspados” (shaved ice cones) with condensed milk when I got out of primary school.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Listen and analyse feedback, and always have an open mind.

What’s the closest you’ve ever come to death?
I have had a few serious accidents, in a car, in an airplane, and at the beach. I would like to think that I’m like a cat in that kind of way, but I will have to look after myself as I only have a few lives left.

Where do you go when you want to let your hair down?
To my sofa to watch some Netflix

Tipple of choice?
I do not drink alcohol too much, but definitely I am whisky person, and if it is a Japanese one the better, with a nice cigar… once in a while.

What would you choose to eat for your last meal?
Wow, I would say a really oily cazón empanada from Margarita island, Venezuela, with a cold papelón con limón, (sugar cane juice with lemon) or a nice fresh melon juice.

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