The Career Noma's Chef Kenneth Foong Would Want If He Didn't Cook

Singaporean-born Kenneth Foong is a world-renowned name in the food and restaurant space. Beginning his career as a line cook at New York City's one and only Eleven Madison Park before returning to his hometown (via Culinary Agents), it's hard to believe that the head chef of Noma, what is now The World's 50 Best number one restaurant with three Michelin stars (via Michelin Guide), would have ever dreamed of becoming anything else.

As a child, Foong loved to spend time in the kitchen. For him, food and cooking were ways for him to be with his parents — whether he was baking croissants with his father or helping his mother chop and prepare ingredients (via Michelin Guide). As Foong grew older, he never felt pressured by either of them to pursue a conventional career (via Rice Media). In fact, it was the opposite. Foong was always encouraged to explore his passions, one being music.

The road not travelled

Originally, Kenneth Foong had his sights set on pursuing a formal education in jazz performance (via Rice Media). He practiced music every single day, but, in his eyes, that still wasn't enough to be successful. In an interview with the Michelin Guide, Foong said, "I [realized] that my practice hours weren't enough. When the time came to decide what career path I wanted to pursue, I wasn't one-hundred-percent sure if I wanted it to be music, so I decided to cook instead."

A teenager at the time, Foong saw cooking as a way to bridge working with his hands with making others happy (via Michelin Guide). But not everyone understood his choice. Despite being from a city with zealous food culture, influenced by about a half a dozen ethnic groups (via Serious Eats), teachers and relatives accused him of being lazy (via Rice Media). However, like his food, Foong was never conventional — and knew he'd never be happy if he settled. So he got a job at a restaurant, studied at The Culinary Institute of America in New York (via Culinary Agents), and the rest was history.