Europe astounded Waji. He ate both the best and the worst food he had ever tasted. The best coffee, the best bread, the most delicately spiced vegetables, but also the most terrible Asian dishes. He returned to Australia and chefing and it was not until he was nearly thirty that he returned to his roots in Asia to taste the genuine article.
In Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, and Hong Kong he found new flavours that spoke to him at another level.
Finally, Waji went home to his village in Bangladesh. It was not how he remembered it. His romanticised childhood memory was confronted by a smaller, drier landscape but he discovered also the rustic charm of village life. It would be surprising if this Asian heritage did not strongly influence Waji. Be surprised.
Waji did not train in any traditional cuisine nor did his travels somehow lead to a rediscovery of his roots, and it was not recipes or traditions that inspired him. Waji is Australian, his main lessons he taught himself, and his teaching method was quite unusual.
Very early in his apprenticeship Waji decided to eat everything – every single ingredient pure and alone.
He would go into a delicatessen and, starting at one end, search the shelves for pure ingredients: sturgeon, truffles, an oil or a new vinegar, and he would take them home and eat them, alone, one by one, mouthful by mouthful, pure and raw. He ate every fruit, every vegetable, every spice; he ate mouthfuls of pure cinnamon, he chewed an entire star anise.