WG Chef 4

Of Spice and Advice – dishing on life and death with the top chefs of Singapore!

5 Chefs, 5 Questions.

That was my goal when I attended the opening ceremony of the 21st edition of the World Gourmet Summit (WGS), which runs from March 20th to April 16th.  

On Monday, 27th March, 39 outstanding professionals and establishments from the F&B and hospitality industries were recognized at the WGS Awards of Excellence event held at One Farrer Park and Spa.

Amidst munching on the fabulous spread of treats at the opening reception, I managed to grab – yes, literally tugging at their chef’s whites like a child – these 5 amazing chefs to ask them the 5 most important questions one absolutely must ask a chef.

Julien Royer (Odette) – Winner, Chef of the Year.

 

Julien Royer Odette Restaurant

Interviewing Chef Julien, it’s not hard not to get drawn in by those deep, dark, Gallic eyes of his. Such a charming young man he is.

His youth belies his experience though. The culinary force was strong in him, even as a young child. Starting from primary school, he attended specialized schools for the culinary arts and has worked in the Michelin-starred restaurants of acclaimed chefs like Michel Bras.

In Singapore, he brought his sense of terroir and devotion to seasonal ingredients to the kitchens of Brasserie Les Saveurs and Jaan.

And in 2016, Chef Julien led the team at Odette to garner 2 Michelin stars in the inaugural Michelin Guide Singapore.

If you were a spice, which one would you be and why?

Black pepper. It is a small spice that can change the entire profile of any dish.

What is your favourite ingredient to use in your cooking?

Citrus in general. From calamansi to lime to yuzu and so on.

Assuming you committed a culinary crime and are awaiting impending execution, what would your last meal be?

Something with my family – a nice simple roast chicken and potatoes.

What is your favourite foodie travel destination?

I have only been there twice but I am impressed with what Tokyo has to offer.

Finally, asides from saying “don’t”, what advice do you have for aspiring, young chefs?

If you really believe in something and you really want to have an opportunity in this industry, you have to make a lot of sacrifices and work hard but if you manage to do it, it’s the most beautiful job ever.


Javed Ahamad (Punjab Grill) – Winner, Asian Cuisine Chef of the Year.

 

Javed Ahamad Punjab Grill

Punjab Grill is one of my favourite Indian fine dining restaurants in Singapore, and head chef Javed Ahamad’s modern twists to classic Indian dishes is one to be savoured.

Having worked at some of the other Indian fine dining stalwarts like Rang Mahal and Song Of India for the past 11 years, Chef Javed has been credited with bring a few firsts to Singapore, including Singapore’s first Ayurveda-based menu, and Indian-style Champagne brunch.

If you were a spice, which one would you be and why?

I would be a green cardamom. I start and end my day with cardamom – in my morning tea, in my rice, in my marinades at work, everywhere. So, I suppose I could be a cardamom!

What is your favourite ingredient to use in your cooking?

I love to cook with meats in general. But I also love protein-packed lentils.

Assuming you committed a culinary crime and are awaiting impending execution, what would your last meal be?

My last meal would be rice and lentils. It is simple but it brings back my favourite feelings from childhood.

What is your favourite foodie travel destination?

Bangkok. To me, it has the best street food around (after India, of course!). I love Thai papaya salad and the many varieties of noodles.

Finally, asides from saying “don’t”, what advice do you have for aspiring, young chefs?

Stay passionate, motivated and learn every day.


Samuel Quan (Element on Tras Street) – Winner, Apprentice Chef of the Year.

 

Samuel Quan - Element

Chef Samuel’s love for cooking was borne out of his close relationship with his late brother. He recalls watching food shows on TV with his brother, and his brother’s untimely demise led him to get serious about becoming a chef and being the best that he can at it.

Lonely and tough times interning at Michelin-starred Aponiente in Spain did not deter him from pursuing his dreams, and following stints at Les Amis and Joel Robuchon, the young chef is now leading the team at Spanish-influenced restaurant, Element on Tras Street (located in Amara Hotel).

If you were a spice, which one would you be and why?

I would be cumin. It’s pungent, sharp, slightly sweet and versatile.

What is your favourite ingredient to use in your cooking?

Kombu. It is a natural sodium glutamate that contributes the umami factor in dishes.

Assuming you committed a culinary crime and are awaiting impending execution, what would your last meal be?

Bak Kut Teh. As simple as the cooking method may be, it reminds me of home, family and loved ones. That’s the power of food connecting people.

What is your favourite foodie travel destination?

Thailand because the Thais’ passion for food speaks volumes in their dishes. This results in great combinations of flavours.

Finally, asides from saying “don’t”, what advice do you have for aspiring, young chefs?

Be adaptable. Persevere and always have a thirst for knowledge. And be humble.


Drew Nocente (Salted & Hung) – Winner, New Restaurant of the Year.

 

Drew Nocente Salted Hung

I have raved to countless people who would hear me out about that quirky, innovative restaurant at Purvis Street – Salted & Hung.

From my first experience, the unique ingredients and methods that hulking chef Drew Nocente employs in creating one delicious plate after another is evident and this is the kind of place you would want to return to, time and again.

I had experienced Chef Drew’s competence at grilling a mean steak at Skirt (W Hotel) but it is at Salted & Hung, that I really got to see his unassuming genius.

If you were a spice, which one would you be and why?

Juniper. I like the flavour and its energy. So, yeah, I want to be the spice that I really like!

What is your favourite ingredient to use in your cooking?

Pork. Simply because there is just so much I can do with it.

Assuming you committed a culinary crime and are awaiting impending execution, what would your last meal be?

It would be a massive Italian spread with cheeses, cold cuts, pasta and a nice osso buco.

What is your favourite foodie travel destination?

Tokyo.

Finally, asides from saying “don’t”, what words of wisdom do you have for aspiring, young chefs?

Work hard, keep your mouth shut and do what you’re told.


Han Liguang (Labyrinth) – Nominee, Rising Chef of the Year.

 

Chef Han Li Guang Labyrinth

So many meals have I had at the best restaurants in the world, and yet, so few that I can still recall the details of which today.

Labyrinth isn’t one of them. Whether it’s the ridiculously creative spins on local dishes that Chef Han shows off, or the veritable passion emanating from his very being – I still recall that meal I had at Labyrinth.

It’s almost hard to believe that Chef Han is an ex-banker and pretty much self-taught in the fine arts of cooking. I suppose it’s his desire to experiment and challenge diners’ notions of what is. Well, whatever he is doing, it is working.

If you were a spice, which one would you be and why?

Chilli. Because I love chilli and I use it in every dish.

What is your favourite ingredient to use in your cooking?

Eggs are my favourite because they are very versatile. It can be cooked straight up in so many ways, be used as a binding agent, thickener, in savoury dishes and desserts, and it balances flavours.

Assuming you committed a culinary crime and are awaiting impending execution, what would your last meal be?

Sashimi. I love fresh, Japanese food.

What is your favourite foodie travel destination?

Bali. I like to go to the markets and see the local produce. And they are doing their own things as well, like simple, comfort food.

Finally, asides from saying “don’t”, what advice do you have for aspiring, young chefs?

Break up with your girlfriend! I don’t hire people in the restaurant who are attached, they are either married or single. In all seriousness though, just be dedicated and focused, 100%.


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