CHUMS in Taman Cheras is an unassuming neighborhood eatery from the outside. When entering their space, you expect standard cafe fare as well.
Consider pastas (red and creamy sauce types), some toast, some meat or egg-based dishes, and a menu of five basic coffees (you know what they are).
So why did I find myself yearning to come back again and again after biting into their offer for the first time?
This was because I realized that what CHUMS had to offer actually betrayed its homey and modest appearance.
I don’t mean to be a fangirl, but I think the first few words I use to describe CHUMS’ food are “complex”, “ingenious” and “absolutely delicious”.
From flavor execution to presentation, you can tell the chefs behind this eatery are professionally trained to some extent.
My boss Sarah, who has dined with me at CHUMS several times, wondered aloud if CHUMS was owned by a team that already had other established F&B businesses because they seemed to know what they were doing.
We could have found our answers in an interview with Lee Cheng, the chef and co-owner of CHUMS.
A friendly and comfortable place
According to Lee Cheng, CHUMS is run full-time by him and two other founders from different professional backgrounds in F&B.
Elizabeth Koh is an experienced barista and a pastry chef working at hotels such as Mak Chee Weng, Shangri-La Hotel, Hilton, Grand Hyatt and Four Seasons KL. Elizabeth is Lee Cheng’s partner and the couple has been friends with Mak for many years.
Meanwhile, Lee Cheng himself has been professionally trained by a Michelin-starred chef and has several years of experience in capped restaurants awarded by the Australian Good Food Guide.
On how these three people came together to open CHUMS, Lee Cheng said they have a desire to open a place that offers good coffee, as well as “quality and nondescript cafe food and cakes.”
As I noted in the introduction, the level of expertise shown in how their food is cooked and how their drinks are prepared seemed well above what you would get from just a “neighborhood restaurant”, as CHUMS describes itself.
The first few dishes I ate there were Duck Ragout cannelloni, Mac & Cheese Croquettes, and Housemade Chicken Liver Pâté, and I tried a pavlova-based dessert that is no longer visible, along with the Mango Sago Einspänner and Cloudy Bay drinks. Menu.
These were definitely high bids compared to what I’ve gotten from any other cafe (though I must admit I’m not a cafe connoisseur).
However, Lee Cheng said, “We try not to make it fancy or fancy. We always want customers to come to our venue very comfortably to meet their friends and family to enjoy their meal.
If there is anything to look at for the crowd every time I visit, they certainly seem to have accomplished that. Groups of friends and even families with children are common sights at CHUMS, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a good place for business meetings or even workplace celebrations.
Australian inspired cuisine with a local flair
I’m not very familiar with the Taman Cheras area, but from a quick scan every time I visit CHUMS, I’d mostly see a bunch of kopitiams and Chinese restaurants.
Western-leaning organizations like CHUMS seemed harder to come by there, and Lee Cheng agreed.
Regarding why they opened in that location, he said, “Cheras is a region where we feel like home, full of the ‘smells’ of the neighborhood and we feel comfortable in this area as well.”
“Another reason is that we want to bring more Western flavors to our Cheras community.”
The Western flavors they inspire come mostly from Australia, with Malaysian influences.
Elizabeth and Lee studied for many years in Melbourne and the impact this experience had on them is evident in CHUMS’ offerings.
For example, they use coffee beans brought from Code Black Coffee Roaster in Melbourne. The beans were chosen because Elizabeth was trained by them and worked for them.
Lee Cheng said that an example of how his dishes combine Western and local elements is one of their bestsellers.
Red Shrimp Risotto consists of red mizuna, jicama, shrimp stock made from shrimp shells and bunga kantan confit.
“As we know, bunga kantan is used in asam laksa. From here, we can see that bunga kanta goes well with seafood,” Lee Cheng explained their recipe. Using local ingredients also ensures that they are easily available fresh from markets.
Letting the flavors sing
At the end of the day, it seems the team behind CHUMS prefer to let their food, drink and desserts speak for themselves.
The team was quite timid in our interview, and I felt maybe they didn’t want to make CHUMS all about them. After all, what they brought to the table wasn’t their status, it was their expertise.
For me, that makes the fine dining surprise even sweeter.
Just over its first anniversary, CHUMS had already expanded to take over the next store. For now, Lee Cheng said they are not planning to open another branch in the short term.
This will happen in the long run once they have a more robust education system.
And with the intention of staying in Cheras, future branches of CHUMS will likely open in the neighborhood as well.
Wherever they go, I can’t wait to see what the CHUMS team has to come up with as they grow.
- Learn more about CHUMS here.
- Read more stories about Malaysian startups here.
Featured Image Credit: CHUMS
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