The cook and author on childhood food memories - and her first Parisian kitchen
For our packed lunches at primary school in Bromley, Mum would give just half a packet of crisps to me and half to my brother. So one of us would get theirs in the actual packet and the other in an improvised plastic bag. Half a packet was uncool at school; half a plastic bag doubly uncool. We fought over getting the packet and I usually won, because I was a bit of a bully. I'm quite bossy in fact.
My brother and I had to help out in the kitchen - peeling vegetables, washing up - and were begrudging early on. Mum and Dad grew vegetables and every day it would be beans for dinner and we'd have to go and pick them, and weed and stuff. If you wanted your pocket money you did your chores.
My mum adapted more to my dad's Malaysian tastes than he did to her Austrian tastes. She'd make shredded chicken porridge for instance - that was my least favourite. During the week we'd have rendang curries, stir fries, Chinese dishes, the odd spaghetti bolognese and schnitzel, and then, on Sunday, a roast.
I remember a trip to Malaysia to visit my dad's family when I was eight. It was Christmas and they roasted a whole suckling pig on the fire and it made me nauseous.
While studying art and design at Central Saint Martins, I went round supermarkets taking photos of shoppers and their baskets: the game was to match people with their food. For an architectural project, I made a scale model of a shop out of gingerbread rather than foam and added icing and sweets very colourfully. I used to swap cakes for things. If I needed my computer fixed, I'd say to another student, "I'll bake you a cake if you fix this."
I made my first romantic meal when I was a student, but it didn't go too well. He was Jewish and I didn't make kosher.
I saved up £3,000 for a patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and a week before I moved there I found a job as an au pair with a French family. I had my own 15sq metre apartment - if it could be called that - across the road from their house, and it had a fridge and that was about it for my first Parisian kitchen. But I made friends nearby and they let me bake in their ovens.
I love cheese. It intensified when I moved to France. It felt like my cheese shop lady was my dealer because every week I'd say, "I need this cheese, I need that cheese", and she'd cut me enough for the week but I'd finish a whole piece in one go. I'm quite bad that way. Chocolate I'm not so fussed about, but cheese: wow.
Photo: Rachel Khoo. Photograph: Pål Hansen for Observer Food Monthly