The Civil Service Club (CSC)’s resident chef shares her journey to becoming a chef and an instructor, and explains how cooking and eating good food is more than just about taste.


With her trademark colourful glasses and chic cropped hair, Chef Lisa Leong is a standout figure in her cooking classes, recognised not just for her culinary prowess but also for her distinctive fashion sense.


Chef Leong champions a harmonious blend of creativity and practicality In the kitchen. She motivates her students to see recipes as flexible frameworks for culinary creativity, inviting them to personalise dishes according to their tastes. Her teaching aims to instil confidence in home cooks, emphasising that the journey in cooking should be as fulfilling and personal as the joy derived from it.


Boasting a rich culinary career that spans nearly four decades, Chef Leong brings a treasure trove of experience to the table, including recipe development, food styling, and leading culinary tours and classes. Despite her vast array of professional experiences, her heart still lies with the timeless tastes of Singaporean home cooking. 


In our exclusive interview, Chef Leong shares her passion for the culinary arts, imparting her wisdom on the delights of cooking and the pleasures of enjoying a well-prepared dish.


Could you share how your professional culinary journey began? 


In the early 70s’, I founded a printing business, which serviced global beauty brands, banks, schools and other industries. I was also a printing machinery trainer, magazine editor and publisher, among other stints in a colourful career.


Eventually, the printing trade became a sunset industry. Since my son and daughter have grown up and embarked on their own careers, I decided to devote my time to my passion for food. I built up my courage, sold my printing business and went into the culinary trade.


I hosted my first culinary class in 1988, and have been teaching cooking since.



What are some highlights of your culinary career? 


I regularly write and create recipes for publications such as Lianhe Zaobao and food magazines. I also conduct food tours for industry professionals and foodies in Singapore, Hong Kong, China, Nepal and the rest of the Asia-Pacific region.


Alongside these ventures, I’ve held memorable roles conducting training workshops at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University; serving as a food consultant and trainer at the People’s Association community clubs and centres; and partnering with the Health Promotion Board to teach healthy cooking practices in corporate settings.


Additionally, my culinary journey has given me the opportunity to work with celebrity chef Martin Yan and to prepare meals for a number of local dignitaries.


I can say that I’m having the time of my life and I enjoy my passion for cooking and teaching others.



What do you enjoy most about teaching others to cook? 


Whenever I learn a new fact or culinary skill, my instinctual ‘second step’ is to share it with others. My culinary experience has galvanised that instinct into a knack for helping people develop the confidence and understanding needed to cook and eat more healthily. 


You have upcoming culinary classes at CSC @ Tessensohn. What’s something you want your new students to know about the art of cooking?


Preparing dishes is not just routine work – it involves creativity and imagination. Every dish has flavours and textures that are unique to the chef. And as I read somewhere, “Cooking is a great way to relax and unwind, by letting all your worries melt away like butter in a pan”.


How would you describe your teaching method?


I am an extrovert and love interacting with my students. The friendly banter I have with them creates an informal, light-hearted learning atmosphere. My objective is to put them at ease so that they feel comfortable asking questions about the recipes and cooking techniques, or about what they taste and feel when they sample the dishes. This interactive and multi-sensory approach makes lessons enjoyable and memorable.


I also make it a point to simplify my recipes and introduce labour-saving cooking appliances like air fryers and pressure cookers in my lessons. Such hacks help time-starved homemakers and working professionals effortlessly whip up nutritious and delicious meals for their loved ones. 


Some of my very first students from nearly 40 years ago are still attending my classes today —  so I must be doing something right!



What is your definition of good food?


Lots of fruit and vegetables, fish and whole grains, less but better-quality meat, and a lot less processed food. Good food is good for the environment. It’s food that is fresh, in season, sustainably produced and has a low climate impact. It tastes, looks and smells delicious, contains no unnecessary additives, and is even better when shared.


Speaking of sharing, do you often cook for your family? And which of your dishes are their favourites? 


Despite my busy schedule, I do cook for them. My family enjoys simple dishes like steamed minced pork, steamed fish meat tofu, you mai cai and traditional Cantonese soups. These are my own favourites as well, alongside heritage Nyonya dishes. Food runs in our family: my grandpa was a Chinese chef whose cooking has become legendary among our relatives, and my daughter Celian Leong is also in the culinary industry.


What’s a dish that you feel is underrated, but you personally enjoy cooking and eating?


Dishes like dried shrimp with fried eggs often become culinary outcasts due to misconceptions about their taste. However, when prepared properly, these underdog eats can transform into surprisingly delicious additions to any meal. 


If you could have any dish in the world from any time period, what would you want to have and why? Who would it be cooked by, and who would you enjoy the dish with? 


I would have Buddha Jumps Over the Wall, also known as Fo Tiao Qiang. The traditional Chinese soup, featuring fish maw, abalone, chicken, dried scallops and medicinal herbs, is said to have many health benefits, such as enhancing immunity, lowering blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure, and maintaining one’s beauty and youth. I would want it to be cooked by its creator, the celebrated chef Zheng Chunfa, and I would enjoy the dish with my family members.



CSC Gourmet Workshops by Lisa


Chef Lisa Leong will be holding cooking classes at CSC @ Tessensohn from April 2024. Fees are $35 for CSC members, and $38 for Public Service Officers and guests.


Date: Saturday, 27 April 2024, 2pm to 5pm
Dishes: Tiger Pork Curry Thai Special, Tiger Bread Treats, Miraculous Soup of the Day
here to sign up by 22 April 2024


Date: Saturday, 11 May 2024, 2pm to 5pm
Dishes: Braised Law Mai Kai Special, Eggy Amaranth Greens, Recipe of the Day
here to sign up by 6 May 2024


Date: Saturday, 29 June 2024, 2pm to 5pm
Dishes: HUIJI Soya Phoenix Special, HUIJI Royal Veggie Mutton Soup and Special Bake Recipe
here to sign up by 24 June 2024



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