Peng Looi followed his heart and became a world-class chef.
Owner of two successful restaurants, guest chef at the prestigious James Beard House, and recipient of countless awards, Looi traded engineering for cooking and has never looked back.
In 1987, Looi opened his first award-winning restaurant, August Moon Chinese Bistro, which features contemporary Chinese cuisine with South East Asian influences that reflect his Malaysian home. In 1994 came the upscale casual Asiatique, serving Looi’s own unique and artful interpretation of East-West Pacific Rim cuisine. Local and regional food critics have quoted his creations as “works of edible art.”
Looi hails from Ipoh, Malaysia, where he learned his first lessons in cooking and became familiar with the foods of many different cultures. At age 17, he left for Manchester, England to continue his schooling. In 1981, Looi came to the United States and earned his degree in civil engineering. However, he realized his heart was with cooking, not engineering, during his engineering internship, and changed course.
Looi’s restaurants have won numerous awards, including Bon Appetit magazine’s top 125 restaurants nationwide. Both restaurants were also awarded the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for multiple years. In 2013, Asiatique was awarded the maximum 4-star rating by the Courier-Journal.
Looi has been a guest chef at the prestigious James Beard House multiple times and a master chef at the World Gourmet Summit in Las Vegas. His guest chef appearances include the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival, Food + Wine Affair in Houston, Texas, the Charleston Food + Wine Festival (S.C.), and the San Diego Bay Wine + Food Festival (Calif.), among many others. As a WACS certified judge, he has been invited to judge international culinary competitions in Malaysia, the Philippines, and Dubai. Looi was honored with the nationally prestigious Jefferson Evans award for Chef of the Year in New York City.
Known for his commitment to community and charitable causes, Looi has been the coordinating chef for the Crane House (an Asian Institute in Louisville, Ky.) for many years. He has also assisted in raising funds for the Salvation Army Culinary program and Kosair Children’s Hospital. He is a member of the culinary advisory board to the Hospitality Department of Sullivan University.
Looi and his family reside in Louisville, Ky.