Advocator of Singapore heritage cuisine
You need a little 'madness' as this drives you to pursue your dream when no one believes what you want to achieve is possible.
Tell us your story, how did you get here?
It’d require a lot to tell my culinary journey and probably will take too long. Like most chefs who choose this path, hard work and dedication are necessary for anyone who dons chef whites.
On top of that, believe in yourself that what you do comes from the heart. Most importantly, you need a little “madness” as this drives you to pursue your dream when no one believes what you want to achieve is possible. Passion is never enough, especially when you execute the same principles and work day in and day out without question or doubt.
What impact have you made in Singapore?
I’d like to be acknowledged as the chef who has brought heritage cuisine to the masses. From my humble beginnings at Soul Kitchen to Rempapa, I’ve always pursued the cuisine of the 5 main ethnicities that graced Singapore since the early 18th century.
I hope what I practice has given guidance to chefs who have chosen the path to heritage cuisine. I’d like to see more chefs starting restaurants that project their ethnicity and cuisine.
What does 2022 look like for you?
After a challenging couple of years, the F&B industry is positioned for almost anything that can happen. We’ve become more flexible in how we operate and we can only get stronger in the years to come.
Although 2022 won’t see the end of adversities, it’ll encourage operators to look above and beyond the necessary criteria (service, food, and pricing) in operating a restaurant.
What do you love most about Singapore?
I love Singapore for its feeling of safety wherever you are on the island at any time. There’s food to be found at any time and anywhere. I love the diverse ethnicities we have and how most Singaporeans have embraced them.
If you could choose your last meal, what would it be?
Definitely a home-cooked meal. I’d like to remember how simple things make a person happy. It can be a meal of porridge and simple condiments or anything that’s made with soul.
Who is your Local Legend, and why?
Unfortunately, my local legends have all passed on. I grew up eating hawker and restaurant food in the late 60s, where most operators were in their late 30s or early 40s. So, it’s impossible that any of them are still around.
Let me give you an example: my favourite char kway teow was sold along the old Tampines Road and in a coffee shop right in front of the old Supreme Court. The lontong that I enjoyed was originally in a coffee shop in the cross junction of Joo Chiat Place and Still Road. Teochew mee pok tar was at Jalan Dato on Balestier and a stall in the old wet market at Siglap.
Wanton mee at the old Tampines Bus Terminus, Indian rojak behind Rex Theatre, yong tau foo at Boat Quay… and the list goes on. I honestly can’t find any current hawker that fits in the same category as the ones I’ve mentioned.