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Kylie Kwong's passion for family, food and business

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Cooking with Kylie Kwong
  • Kylie Kwong is an Australian TV chef and restaurateur
  • Grew up in Sydney suburbs and opened her restaurant in 2000
  • Practicing Buddhist she cooked for the Dalai Lama in 2009

Watch the full Talk Asia show with Kylie Kwong on Wednesday, Oct 6, 12.30; Thursday, Oct 7, 03.30; Saturday, Oct 9, 11.00, 19.30; Sunday, Oct 10, 08.30, 18.30 (All times GMT)

(CNN) -- Family, food and faith have guided Kylie Kwong to where she is today.

The 41-year-old chef has been cooking up a storm with her TV shows and restaurant for over a decade, adding a dash of color and flavor to Australia's cultural life.

A third generation Chinese who grew up in the suburbs of Sydney in the 1970s, Kwong left High School to work for an advertising agency. She soon realized, however, that making people feel bad in order to make them buy things they didn't want wasn't for her. Making people happy through good food was much more appealing.

After leaving the advertising industry she worked part-time for a caterer where she saw a way to combine the love of cooking she inherited from her mother with a growing interest in creating her own business.

I certainly felt different when I'd go to school, but it really didn't affect me negatively at all.
--Kylie Kwong, chef
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • China

She opened her first restaurant "Billy Kwong" 10 years ago and it has since become a fixture on the Sydney restaurant scene.

"When I opened the goal was very simple. I wanted to fill it every night and serve really fantastic, amazing, fresh Chinese food out of this funny little arty place," she told CNN.

"And I love running a business. It's so challenging. And I love what it brings out of you. You find these hidden strengths you find that you didn't know you had."

Since then Kwong has developed a larger profile through her cooking shows and recipe books.

She also let cameras follow her to southern China and the village where her great grandfather once lived; the first time a member of Kwong's immediate family had been there in 90 years.

It was a world apart from the suburban Australia that Kwong knew. Coming from the only Chinese family in her suburb, Kwong says she always felt different from other children.

"I certainly felt different when I'd go to school and open the lunch box and there I'd have last night's rice and soy sauce chicken wings and my friend had the Vegemite sandwiches," she told CNN.

"And that point it was very good to be different because our food was so much more interesting. Yes, I felt different, yes, my brothers felt different. But it really didn't affect us negatively at all."

In touch with her roots and a vast extended family (family reunions number in the hundreds) Kwong is also a practicing Buddhist who cooked for the Dalai Lama when he visited Australia in 2009.

"It was one of the great weeks of my life. I still can't believe that it actually happened. We spent all week with him backstage in Sydney," she said.

"His practice just really encouraged me to keep practicing and doing what we're doing, and to always try harder and harder in everything we do. And to know every single thing that we feel, or think, or do, makes a really big difference."