The culinary journey of Johnson Wong, the Penang-based recipient of Malaysia’s Michelin

Penang, known for its rich culinary heritage, has seen a remarkable rise in its fine dining scene over the past decade. Among the trailblazers in this culinary renaissance is Johnson Wong, a young chef hailing not from the northern state itself but from Malaysia’s southern gem, Johor.

His restaurant, Gen, nestled in the heart of Penang, has captured the attention of epicureans and critics alike, earning him the prestigious Michelin Guide Young Chef Award in 2023.

Born in 1991, Wong’s culinary odyssey began far from the shores of Penang. At the tender age of 17, he embarked on a gastronomic journey, enrolling in the esteemed Le Cordon Bleu Sydney. There, he laid the foundation for his future endeavours and went on to hone his skills at Michelin-starred kitchens in Sydney, Macau and Paris.

Upon returning to Malaysia, Wong found himself drawn to the vibrant culinary landscape of Penang and took on the role of executive chef at Macalister Mansion. Soon after, he felt the calling to start his own shop. It was a tough business, Wong admitted, but he had a compelling reason to persevere. “We strongly felt that we needed a small restaurant to introduce the cooking with our local ingredients with different perspectives in Penang,” he explained. Thus, Gen (meaning ‘roots’ in mandarin) was born on a sliver of a restored pre-war shophouse in Lebuh Presgrave in 2018, with an ambitious vision to showcase the bounty of Malaysian ingredients in innovative ways.

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