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5 Questions for Chris Yeo

Chris Yeo

Chris Yeo is executive chef and owner of an empire of Singaporean and Chinese restaurants, the original being Straits Cafe in San Francisco. The former hair stylist, who emigrated from Singapore, opened Xino Restaurant and Lounge last year at Santa Monica Place where he mixes Chinese classics with his spin on Asian fusion.   

What's coming up next on your menu? I just got back from Hawaii and was really into the diverse Pacific Rim stuff they're doing there. We are working on some new dishes at Xino that are inspired by my trip, as well as for my restaurant Straits, which is known for its Singaporean influences.

Latest ingredient obsession? I was at a house party and the food was really flavorful so I asked what the ingredients were. I actually thought it was MSG, but then found out that the flavor was mushroom powder. It is an old Chinese tradition used to enhance flavors in food versus salt or MSG.

What restaurant do you find yourself going to again and again? Beretta in San Francisco -- I love the crispy thin crust pizza. It was one of the first in the Mission District and is a classic San Francisco place that balances hipster cool with great food in an approachable environment.

The one piece of kitchen equipment you can't live without, other than your knives? I would have to say the wok. The wok has been a defining piece of equipment in my life and in my kitchen. Some of my most daring culinary successes and failures have happened with a wok. Chopping different vegetables and throwing in a new sauce concoction while listening to the sizzle of everything coming together is one of my favorite things in the world. I feel I'm at my best my  with a wok.

What chef has most influenced you? Alan Wong. He was awarded James Beard in Hawaii and is known for his innovative and new style of pan-Asian cooking. 

Xino Restaurant and Lounge, 395 Santa Monica Place, Suite 308, Santa Monica, (310) 755-6220, www.straitsrestaurants.com.

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