We’ll be honest here – we really only wanted to do this interview at first because we Google Image-d Nik Michael Imran and couldn’t resist his charming smile. Fortunately for us though, he turned out to be a pretty cool guy.
Who is Nik Michael Imran (and why does he look familiar), you may ask. Chef Nik, who is of Australian-Malaysian heritage, was a finalist on MasterChef Malaysia. Don’t worry if you didn’t catch him on the show though, because he’ll be back on screen with a new show about tea.
So we hear you’re going to be on a new cooking programme called Tea Twist. What are some of the cool places in Malaysia you got to see while shooting the show?
I think the coolest spot was in Putrajaya. We were at the marina, which had a beautiful background of green trees and metal bridges and we were playing one of my favourite extreme sports, the Flyboard!
And the entire show is about tea?
Yes, mostly. Lipton Tea gave me a challenge to create my own tea-inspired drinks and the show focuses on what I do with the tea. I came up with different tea drinks for different moods and occasions.
We read the press release and it seems you’ve also just opened a new restaurant in Malaysia. What specials do you serve up there?
The food at Picknik is good because we use high quality ingredients. We use sea salt in everything and all elements of the dishes (except for the ice-cream), is made from scratch. Actually, if I could fit an ice cream machine in the kitchen, we would make that from scratch too! Our signatures dishes are the Lamb Cutlets with Korean Chilli Paste and Sautéed Spinach, Prawn Aglio Olio, Nasi Lemak with Tempura Soft Shell Crab and last but not least, Chocolate Brownies with Salted Caramel.
We hear you’ve been cooking ever since you were young. When did you start to realize your passion for cooking?
I was 9 years old when I cooked my first dish – it was a Crepe Suzette. My father helped to make the batter and the sauce. He taught me how to pour the batter onto a flat pan and rotate it so the batter would cook evenly. He also taught me how to flip the crepe over! I remember this memory very fondly. I enjoyed playing with and getting used to the heavy pan.
I started cooking seriously at the age of 15 and that was when I grew my knowledge and skills considerably. I don’t think that there was an exact point in my life where I realized my passion, but I have always enjoyed my time in the kitchen with my father.
Your father used to own an Italian restaurant in Brisbane. Who’s the better cook – you or your father?
Of course I’ll say that I am, since he is a great teacher! If you ask him though, he will say that he is a better cook than me because he has been cooking for so much longer. In one of the episodes of Tea Twist, we have a father and son cook off and the loser has to clean the kitchen.
You were one of the finalists on MasterChef Malaysia. What made you want to join the show?
My father and friends saw the calls for auditions and they were the ones who pushed me to go! Initially I didn’t want to try out, especially because I was still studying. But since I was such a big fan of the MasterChef series, I decided to give it a go.
Cooking can get quite complicated, but cooking on TV is probably a whole different story eh? What’s the one big thing most people don’t realize about getting the perfect cooking shot on TV?
To me, cooking on television is all about being a good teacher. You not only have to cook well and make it look good, but you also need to make sure that those watching understand your cooking steps and feel inspired to cook too. That is the biggest difference as compared to cooking in a restaurant.
I’ve been in the industry for two years now, and I feel like people are overcomplicating the process of getting that perfect food shot. Anything that is cooked well will speak for itself. All you need is a high frontal angle and to be able to play with the camera’s focus. Let the food do the talking!
Any crazy requests from fans?
Not yet! My fans are pretty cool and most of them turn out to be friends. There was one case though, where a fan that I’d never met before went on social media and said that we were in a relationship…that was weird!
Enough about cooking for now, let’s get to know you better. What’s one unexpected fact about yourself?
Unexpected? Most of the time, it’s my age. Every time I tell someone new that I’m 24, they go “No wayyyyyyy!”
What else do you like to do, besides cooking (and charming the ladies with that grin)?
I am an avid extreme sports fan. This year alone, I’ve tried paragliding, scuba diving, stuntman training and Flyboarding. I look forward to experiencing a lot more.
Say you wanted to impress a date with a home-cooked meal, what dishes would you cook for her?
I would make pancakes. Fluffy, buttery, sweet pancakes with lots of butter, maple syrup, tart fruits and ricotta cheese. (Ed’s note: Sign us up!)
And finally, tell us why we should catch you on your new TV show, Tea Twist.
Besides the exciting activities we do for each episode, the whole play on tea is a new and interesting concept. It will change the way you look at tea from now on.