Matthew Leung is a winner of the 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Contest hosted by the Institute of Culinary Education and ABC's The Chew

Get to Know Our 2018 #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Winners: Meet Matthew L.

Learn more about the winners of this year's #CulinaryVoice scholarship contest

This year, the Institute of Culinary Education partnered with ABC's The Chew on the third #CulinaryVoice Scholarship Contest, in an ongoing effort to find the next generation of culinary talent. Together, they challenged aspiring chefs around the nation to submit a 60-second video explaining why he or she should be given a full scholarship to attend ICE. Five winners were chosen from hundreds and now, we're sharing their stories on DICED — learn more about Matthew's journey below.

Matthew worked in the banking industry for five years while dreaming of pursuing his real passion: cooking. When he was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and hospitalized four times last year, he realized that life is too short to let this dream fade. Matthew lives in Chicago’s Chinatown, which has encouraged him to experiment with different ingredients and dishes. As one of the winners of the 2018 #CulinaryVoice scholarship contest, he wishes to capture Chinese and American culture on one plate. Matthew will be joining ICE as a Culinary Arts student.

Unknown-1.jpegName: Matthew L.
Age: 29
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Program: Culinary Arts
Campus: Undecided

His earliest memory of food or cooking is...

When my grandparents used to visit, my grandpa would wake up early on Saturday mornings and make congee for the family. The smell of rice cooking in the air is still one of the most comforting aromas to me.  

His favorite dish to prepare is...

A French omelette. In 2017, I was hospitalized multiple times due to an autoimmune disease. Doctors told me to eat foods that I could easily digest, like starch and eggs. So, I asked myself what would be the most challenging thing I could make for breakfast with eggs. That was the French omelette. It’s practical, technical and tasty. What better way is there to start the day?

(As fate would have it, our #CulinaryVoice Scholarship finalists were asked to prepare an omelette for their first challenge — watch below.)

If he could eat anywhere in the world, it would be...

Hong Kong — the land of my people. One of the reasons why I’d go to Hong Kong is because I was never really able to explore it as an adult. On visits as a child, my family and I would go to street markets to choose freshly caught seafood to bring to a restaurant where they would prepare each dish however we’d want. When we’d wake up from our jet-lag induced slumber, we’d always head to the nearest hole-in-the-wall restaurant that sold wonton noodle soup, “pineapple” buns and Hong Kong-style milk tea. We’d also stop by food carts; one in particular, we could always smell before we saw because of their notorious deep-fried stinky, fermented tofu. The vendors would top off skewers of it with their special soy sauce. They added something to the soy sauce because it wasn’t just any soy sauce. Something about it brought out the best in the stinky tofu. I remember being stunned as a child that something so pungent could be so delicious! 

When he’s not cooking, he likes to... 

At the moment, I’d most likely be preparing for my first triathlon!  But, I also enjoy playing sports, the drums and the guitar.  

He was inspired to enter the #CulinaryVoice scholarship contest because...

My wife sent me this message one afternoon:

The experience of competing for the scholarship on The Chew was...

Awesome! To see how much work went into the show was eye opening on a professional level. On a personal level, it was humbling to see how the competition required me to use skills that I learned from various seasons in my life — i.e. the French omelette challenge in the first round. There were so many moments when it felt as if my 29 years of life had prepared me for this one moment. To finally feel like I was where I was meant to be. I have no one else to credit for that than Jesus Christ, my Lord and savior.  

(Watch Matthew's entry video below.)

Once he starts ICE, he’s most looking forward to…

Taking Culinary Fundamentals because it mentions that the development of the palette is a priority. As someone who grew up loving to eat everything, I never really developed a very discerning palate. However, as my passion for food grew, I did begin asking myself what it is that I liked about certain dishes. I think taking this fundamentals class will only help develop my palate more.  

Something else I find interesting is the Culinary Technology Lab. Having previously encountered things like the RotoVap in a chemistry lab, it intrigues me to have an opportunity to see how the kitchen has been shaped by technological innovations. Lastly, I also look forward to learning about different flavors and techniques of other regions around world; to explore my own cultural roots more deeply is something that energizes me in a unique way.  

Five years from now, he will be...

Hopefully on the cusp of bringing my dream of owning a restaurant to reality! 

His culinary voice is...

Passionate, curious, introspective, rooted, original, persevering, teachable and nurturing.  My culinary voice is young and I have so much to learn about the industry. But, this journey is also deeply personal for me. I look forward to understanding how my inherited culture and my present culture impact what I put on a plate. I believe how someone acts will characterize their culinary voice. With that said, in all I do, I aim to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

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