Chef-owner of Artichoke and Small’s
I have shown people on social media that you can make a good biryani using only ingredients from Burger King plus rice.
Tell us your story, how did you get here?
I started as a dishwasher earning $4.50 an hour back in 2004 at this place called The Outsider Cafe in Tanglin Mall. Ever since then, I’ve gone to culinary school, dropped out of culinary school (Cert 1 is my highest culinary-related academic achievement), completed a Bachelor’s in Tourism, a Master’s in Business, almost did a PhD in fried chicken (seriously), worked at 7-Eleven, worked at hippie cafes around Australia, opened 5 of my own F&B businesses (Artichoke, Bird Bird, Overdoughs, Neh Neh Pop, and Small’s), and a few more for other people (B Burger, Kara, Duck Down Pizza Party Jakarta, Anmon Resort Bintan).
I know I’m an absolutely shitty businessman but an OK chef, because of how I always get my a** handed to me when I’m the one making decisions for my own business(es).
Somehow, someone saw it fit that I represent the global MasterChef brand, so I happen to be one of the resident judges in all 3 seasons of MasterChef Singapore to date. I’m the judge with the good hair but bad jokes. In today’s sensitive times, I’m at risk of getting cancelled any day now. I’m just riding this wave for as long as it lasts.
What impact have you made in Singapore?
I’ve shown people on social media that you can make a good biryani using only ingredients from Burger King plus rice. #bjshotbiryani on IG
What does 2022 look like for you?
I’m now nesting at Small’s, my omakase joint and R&D kitchen. The current theme is Bread Sushi. It’s fun but it pisses some people off, which is great IMO. It means that I’m doing something meaningful, I guess.
I’m also planning what next year’s omakase theme is gonna be. Right now, I’ve got sandwich omakase and curry omakase on the top of my list. But who knows, hotdog omakase may just come from behind and claw its way over the heads of my more sensible ideas. It takes just 2 beers for decisions like that to happen; I’m quite a lightweight.
Artichoke is doing great and I’ve got a great team running it daily. They’re killin’ it with this year’s “Middle Eastern X beachside seafood joint” theme (we have a micro theme each year to follow internally, it’s not something we publicise).
What do you love most about Singapore?
I was gonna say Mustafa Centre, but screw that. They’ve been closing at 11.30pm, which means I can no longer go shopping for my fashion after I knock off like I used to. I think I now love watching coffeeshop uncles fighting on Stomp most.
If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?
I’d eat the pinkies of all my haters. So they can never ever dig their noses properly again.
Who is your Local Legend, and why?
Steven Lim Kor Kor is an inspiration to all. He’s a living testament that Singapore isn’t that stiff police state everyone else cracks it up to be. We’ve got Eyebrow King on the loose in the streets, singing and dancing away, charming passers-by, living his best life in a way that few Singaporeans would understand. And he’s still at it every damn day. It reaffirms that you can be anything and anyone here and still lead a legendary life.