Monica is the worldwide editor and driving force of The Yum List. Growing up in countryside Australia, surrounded by farmers and a family who grew much of their own food, she feels as though she has an appreciation of where her food comes from and a taste for ‘real’ food. Some of her favourite things to do as a child were to pick peaches from her neighbour’s trees and go yabbying (fishing for crayfish). Shunning overly processed products that come in plastic and cardboard, she prefers local farmer’s markets and will buy directly from the source and organic whenever she can. Attempts at growing her own food on her apartment balcony have had mixed results. But she’s not giving up. With Degrees and Masters in Education, she sees that the path to a happier, harmonious society is through knowledge and awareness. One of her goals for The Yum List is to help educate and ‘grow the good.’
Eighteen years as an expat and 22 years of world travel have given her taste buds a worldly cultivation. She loves the freshness of Thai and Vietnamese food, the rustic preparation and use of local seasonal ingredients in Italian, the care and technique that goes into French cuisine, the inventiveness of modern Australian menus and the connection of foods to geography in Latin America. While personally choosing to eat foods that are healthy for herself and for the environment she will try anything within reason (no endangered animals). She has a weakness for desserts, cheese, bread, high-end alcohol and has been known to enjoy a good wine paired dinner and champagne brunch or three.
No longer in her backpacker years, her taste for luxury accommodation and spa treatments continues to grow. While she enjoys the facilities and services of 5-star accommodation, luxury boutique hotels are her preference for stays. She admires hoteliers who honour the local area by maintaining connections to the community both in staffing, architecture, services and culture. Socially responsible organisations looking to make minimal, if not beneficial, impact on their surroundings are held in high esteem.
Caning Jaramillo (alias hubby) is the support and carnivorous taste buds of The Yum List. His chief role is charming and entertaining fellow dinner guests and hosts with occasional chauffeuring, bag handling and “staying out of the shot” duties thrown in. Caning’s family used to own a supermarket in Caracas, Venezuela so he spent much of his childhood surrounded by products and tasting food and beverages for possible supply to the community. His passion for food and travel encouraged him to study Tourism alongside Business Administration as a young adult. He has travelled around the world for more than 17 years looking for new flavours and experiences. Being a man of all trades he has had careers in Education, Oil and Gas and Banking. Sailing, flying and sports are his extracurricular passions. He is a sensational salsa dancer – music runs through his Latino blood – and his comfort foods are those with a South American and Spanish influence. Recent cuisines tickling his taste buds are those from Japan and France and innovative foods using science to bring the dining experience to an unexpected level. While eating out excites him, he is just as happy staying in savouring a home cooked meal with friends and sipping on a well-aged whisky or rum.
Heather has spent the last 36 years of her life taste-testing the world’s culinary offerings, while she has spent the last 20 trying to imitate some of the wonderful dishes she has tried in her own kitchen. From an early age, her parents introduced her to steak tarter and soft stinky cheeses. Later on in life when she began independently travelling, she was exposed to the delights of Russian blini, the freshness of southern Mexican food, the earthy elements of South African Braiis and the well-balanced vegetable and meat cuisine of Korea. All of these experiences peaked her interest and she contemplated a career in culinary arts for awhile, working at a Michelin star restaurant in St. Andrews, Scotland.
Not prepared to leave the passionate world of teaching, she continued pursuing her understanding of food through her travels and cooking experiments. In Barcelona, she worked with an organisation called Eatwith.com, cooking Thai food, to bring different types of cuisine to both local and foreign diners in the comfort of stylish Barcelona apartments. In Malaysia, she embraces the wonderful Asiatic produce she is able to access and regularly experiments with the variety of fresh herbs, leaves, spices, roots that are indigenous only to this part of the world in her own cooking.
Heather believes that food is one of the few things on the planet that truly nurtures us all and aspires to nurture others with words as well. She has been writing for The Yum List for nearly two years.
Her professional background lies in arts marketing and writing; before moving to Malaysia she worked as the Marketing Director for the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra.
Kirsten chooses to live her life in excited anticipation of new experiences and with hope of one day finding the perfect daiquiri.
Dr Craig J Selby
Serial ex-pat and long-time foodie, Craig is a huge fan of local and regional cuisines. A Kiwi by origin, he has spent much of his adult life in Asia – Singapore, China, and Malaysia. Fundamentally a University Academic, he gave up the ivory tower in search of a profession that would make him some real money. Craig co-founded and co-owns an award-winning Public Relations Agency, in addition to a Consultancy company focusing on organisational change. It was through his PR Agency that he first met Monica – both having lunch at an Italian restaurant his company represented. The rest, as they say, is both “history” and “a beautiful friendship”.
Craig’s particular focus is on local flavours – alluring aromas, intense spices, and stunning presentations – reminding us all that Malaysia is truly home to some spectacular cuisine (and beverages). “In a city this size, you don’t have to go far for some ‘good grub’” (CJS).
Monica R. Clear
Monica Clear is a community health nurse by profession who has traveled and lived in a variety of continents, and can describe with detail her favorite meal in each place. Monica grew up in a home where the yogurt and granola were made from scratch, and she and her brother took turns punching the bread dough back down as it rose, every Sunday, on the kitchen counter. Birthday dinners were Peking Duck ordered one day in advance from Chan’s Kitchen in Plainfield, New Jersey, and Fodor’s Guide to New York City restaurants sat on the coffee table, thick with dog-eared pages of bucket list eateries to try. To this day, Monica would rather spend an hour shopping in a grocery store than a department store, and can’t quite remember life before the coffee culture.
The art of food appreciation is one thing, however, and the skill of cooking another. It wasn’t until recently that Monica began dabbling with more complicated creations of her own in the kitchen, inspired by a husband with true culinary talent and two children sure to offer their honest opinions. When she can successfully make Thai food taste like the street stall around the corner, she will consider herself a cook.
Still a novice on the Kuala Lumpur restaurant scene, Monica is continuously amazed by the variety of cuisines available locally, and the plethora of little restaurant gems tucked away in the farthest and highest corners of this city. A follower of The Yum List since she arrived in Malaysia, Monica is excited to now be a contributing eater and writer; two activities that, as far as she’s concerned, make life worth living.
An insatiable vagabond, Patricia loves the lure of the next bend in every road. She has lived on four continents and can be known to spend long hours looking at maps, plotting her next vacation. Her culinary adventures began as a child when she would sneak chocolate chips out of the refrigerator when her mother wasn’t looking. This passion for food and a willingness to break rules applies to her own kitchen, where she almost never follows a recipe. Although she is currently a middle school teacher at ISKL, she has also held jobs as a waitress, a bartender, a lifeguard, a printer’s assistant, and even worked once in a butcher shop! She is delighted to be writing for the Yum List.
Born and raised on the Canadian Prairies, Shaun’s love of rich, hearty food began at a very young age. (And he still has the baby fat roll lines on his forearms to prove it!)
While he started off eating roast beef, potatoes and perogies (Google them, they’re awesome!), his tastes got much spicier after he and his wife Trina moved to Sri Lanka in 2011. The delicious, island curries expanded his food horizons and he still looks for the mind numbing kottu roti wherever he travels and eats.
Now living in KL, Shaun is mesmerized (if not somewhat paralyzed) by the abundance of food choices in Malaysia. In fact, he’s been known to wander the streets for hours looking at all the amazing grub, but unable to make a decision about what to eat. It’s a good problem to have.
Besides eating and wandering, Shaun enjoys writing on his blog – shaunandtrinaaresweating.wordpress.com and cheering for his beloved Canadian Football League team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Monica Isabel Larrieu
Born in Bolivia and raised in the Washington DC area, Monica is still rather new to Kuala Lumpur, having only arrived in September 2015. Having grown-up in the culturally-diverse US capital and its surrounding areas, she grew up exposed to not only Latin cuisine, but also that of the numerous ethnicities represented in the area. By the time she reached 12 years of age, she learned to try new things and use an ethnographic approach to food and eating “different” foods early on, including Korean, Pakistani, Indian, Japanese, Ethiopian, Persian, Afghani, Thai, Vietnamese, Caribbean, various European, and Middle-Eastern cuisines.
Fortunately, her career and that of her husband have required that they consistently travel, as well as live, in various parts of the world. Cumulatively, Monica has traveled to over 80 countries, living in nine on five different continents – trying the cuisine and partaking in practices in as many places as possible. This was not only confined to trying food in posh restaurants in cosmopolitan cities, but also in rural communities of developing countries, truly taking her on culinary adventures. Examples of this include: living off simple millet made with contaminated water when food was scarce, or foufou and agouti arachide (a type of rodent with peanut sauce) on better days in Niger; fishing for and eating piranha in the Amazon; eating piglet baked in an underground pit oven, with hairs still on it and accompanied by black, desiccated then rehydrated potato (chuño) in the Bolivian altiplano. She always believed that a country’s cuisine is a reflection of its people’s soul, and has happily flitted about the world in search of this perspective.
Living in Asia was a lifelong dream and she is now thrilled to live in Kuala Lumpur, savor the country’s incredibly diverse tastes, as well as those of the region, and now have a chance to write about it for The Yum List.
When she is not eating, Monica is an independent consultant working with international organizations on monitoring and evaluation, or as her kids aptly put it, “writing a lot of emails.” A public health specialist by profession, she has become very adaptable and flexible, and has made her career relatively portable to be able to follow her husband all over the world. She and her husband have two small children who, so far, seem to have inherited her curiosity and interest in different foods and tastes (thank goodness!).
Originating from the North West of England, Manchester to be precise, Hannah is a keen ‘foodie’. She might have grown up on a diet of meat and two veg, a Friday ‘chippy tea’ and treats of ‘Mr Kipling Country slices’ but frequent travel has broadened her food senses and enabled her ‘foodie’ characteristics to continue to reach new horizons.
She has lived in Spain, London, New York and now Kuala Lumpur. Each journey has provided a new appreciation for local cultures and customs and whilst she is enjoying the freshness and spice of KL she thinks a slice of ‘Ben’s Pizza, New York’ should be on everybody’s bucket list and her death row meal is still a traditional Sunday Roast with all the trimmings.
As a hobby Hannah has delved into the world of professional cake decorating even making her own wedding cake. Although in hindsight she wouldn’t recommend it to future brides she still has a passion for stunning cake designs and thinks the people in the industry are super talented.
Hannah is definitely a person who lives to eat rather than vice versa and hopes her passion for food and a fabulous dining experience is reflected in all her Yum List reviews.
Araceli Barrera Arismendi is a proud Tejana (Texan of Mexican descent) from Houston, the largest city of the lone star state. Araceli considers herself a “Fusion Foodie.” Growing up in a Tex-Mex (a blend of Texas and Mexican food) household where the smells of red and green chilies, cumin spice, beans and homemade flour tortillas lingered in the air, Araceli has a deep and strong appreciation for Tex-Mex cooking. However, since moving to Southeast Asia with her hubby Jorge, she has developed an innocent love affair for Asian cuisine especially Indian and Thai bites. The similar ingredients used in many dishes from all around the world especially between the Latin and Asian culture is fascinating. The overlapping food combinations such as the Mexican taco wrapped around in meat and spices and the Indian roti wrapped in chicken and tikka masala are two examples of how our culinary world is intertwined and connected in a fusion twist. Araceli thrives on the idea that there are more commonalties than differences between countries and cultures. She enjoys travelling, cooking healthy and savory meals, planning vacations and influencing young minds. Some of her kitchen specialties include fish ceviche, spicy Mexican Chicken tortilla soup and quinoa and black bean tacos. Her Mexican heritage has strongly influenced her culinary creations, and she loves that she can throw in cheese or sour cream to throw in that Texas flare. The gastronomic city of Kuala Lumpur has opened her taste buds to an array of flavors and spices and has motivated her to experiment with Asian zests from behind the cutting board. She currently teaches first grade at the International School of Kuala Lumpur and has flourished teaching and learning from a multi-cultured student population. Her favorite memory this year was when her students’ families brought in authentic dishes from their home countries. Adults and children alike were laughing and having rich conversations all around sumptuous food.
Guest writers for the Yum List, Ross and Sarah Jones have been living in Malaysia and exploring the growing number of food choices in the city. Dabbling in different cuisines within their own kitchen, motivates them to get out and try new food at unique and new restaurants. They enjoy local venues run by small business owners who appreciate quality ingredients and simple, quality food. They are constantly impressed by the new dining concepts coming to Malaysia and look forward the new blending with the old in this cosmopolitan city.
Guest writer, Polly Szantor, has always had a passion for food. She grew up in Yorkshire in the north of England, and both her mother and grandmother were excellent cooks. When she was 8 years old, her mum started taking gourmet cooking classes. “Mum would come home with coq au vin, roasted pheasant or delectable desserts. I was lucky to become a bit of a foody at an early age.” Schools in the UK taught cookery as part of the curriculum, and there were often conflicts between her mother’s method and the teacher’s. Luckily, Ms. Polly survived unscathed and went on to become an excellent chef in her own right. “Because I live to eat, I often cook quite complicated dishes just for myself, but I like to be inventive. If I’m using a recipe, I always tweak it to make it more to my taste. I also develop my own creations, but not when I’m expecting guests. I must confess that I’ve had a few disasters!”
For her entire career Polly worked as a speech therapist, first in England and then in Nova Scotia, Canada. She moved to Kuala Lumpur in 2002 to take up a position as speech therapist at the International School of Kuala Lumpur. She retired in 2009 and joined the Malaysia My Second Home Programme. “I love living in Malaysia. It’s green all year, the locals are very friendly, the mix of cultures is fascinating, and where else in the world can you find such an amazing choice of fabulous food?” Polly enjoys all of the local cuisines, and since she is a frequent visitor to Bario, Sarawak and a volunteer with Gerai OA, this includes food cooked by the indigenous people of Malaysia. “I tried civet cat in Bario,” she recalls. “The taste was OK but it was pretty oily and would have benefited from at least two more hours in the pot!”
Peter grew up in the country side of Devon, England and started cooking with his Mother as a child. He cultivated a fondness for the culinary arts since a young age, in fact a Christmas cake competition decided his future career.
He started at The Inn on the Park, London and The Savoy Hotel where he gained his first Executive Pastry Chef position and was honoured to be sent to do promotions at The Okura Hotel in Tokyo and The Oriental Hotel, Bangkok, also involved in many special events and competitions in Europe. Peter was awarded a Silver medal at the Frankfurt Culinary Olympics, Germany. He was also enrolled in School Le Notre in Paris to study pastry and chocolate. His plans materialized and he then moved abroad to The Hyatt Regency Dubai as a Pastry Chef running the Pastry & Bakery Department. During his period in Dubai, Peter was part of the opening team for The Hyatt Regency in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Back in Dubai, he was featured in a culinary television series aired on TV in Europe and the Middle East show casing the pastry arts. Thereafter, he moved to Asia to the famed Oriental Hotel, Bangkok as the Executive Pastry Chef where he would stay for more than a decade.
During his time Peter pleased the taste buds of the Queen of England during the Official State Visits at the Grand Palace. Also at the Oriental having opportunity to work with most of the 3 star Michelin Chefs from France was a great honour to him. He has won many medals and wins for desserts, show pieces and wedding cakes.
After the Oriental Peter took a year off to travel around the world, he called it his self discovery tour and he spent time in India, Europe, America and South America finishing in Australia before returning to Thailand. During this time he found the opportunity to expand his expertise in Patisserie and launched Les Anges, boutique patisserie/restaurant at the Royal Phuket Marina. It soon became MUST place for sweet-toothed lovers be it tourists or residents on the island. Les Anges proved to be a huge success with many of the 5 star hotels being supplied with Peter’s specialty goods.
After 6 years building Les Anges Peter was headhunted to join the expanding Watermark Group as Director of Operations where he set up the new bakeries and in Bangkok and Phuket. An opportunity followed which took Peter to Malaysia away from his beloved Thailand.
The interesting new role as Culinary Director with the prestigious YTL Group involved the introduction of culinary courses for the new I.C.H.M College and overseeing the pastry departments of the Ritz Carlton and J.W. Marriot hotels. Valuable experience gained in Malaysia was a significant career enhancement but Peter’s affinity for Thailand remained prominent, such that he has now embarked on a freelance role as a consultant in Thailand.
He loves all and any food, favourites being of course Thai but also Indian, Middle Eastern and classical French. His only dislike which saddens him is the Chilli which he has never managed to acquire a taste for, he says this is because his palate is too delicate due to being a pastry chef!
His favourite foods are freshly prepared fish and salads, dessert is Rum Baba or Savarin with fresh berries and Chantilly or the Indian equivalent Gulab Jamun, simple but delicious washed down with a glass of bubbly, of course!