Monday, January 09, 2017

Food Heroes - Channel New Asia series

Came across this series while I was in Singapore in November. I have been dipping in and out of it across the break from work. Here are notes taken of each episode - each around 25 minutes long.

All the featured chefs are young, in their early to mid thirties. They come from disparate backgrounds but all have an innate respect for food. All attended some form of culinary training before embarking on journeyman experiences, mostly in well-rated, influential restaurants, often through unpaid internships but strategically selected – the best restaurants. Archive of the series also available via toggle.

A graduate but with a love of food and an innovative pastry chef / owner of 2AM Dessert Bar. Her innovation is anchored by perseverance. Has clear ideas on how to provide food with experience. Food is not just to be eaten but to invoke memories and add to individuals’ collection of sense of place. Provides ingredients, in the form of jars of coloured chocolate, sauces etc. to customers to make their own versions. Completed work experience in France before embarking on her own entrepreneurial journey.

Jason Tan - chef at the  CornerHouse 
Jason comes from humble roots and is still living in HDB (public housing in Singapore) apartment with his parents.He is inspired by nature and the restaurant is aptly situated in the Singapore botanical gardens. A Singaporean who helms a top flight French restaurant – there is no Frenchman running a Chinese restaurant in France.  He is praised by food critics for technique, precision and innovative use of local ingredients. Allowing ingredients to shine through careful cooking technique, appropriate to each ingredient and various combinations to feature and highlight natural the flavours. Shared how he learnt the exacting attitude required to produce excellent and consistent food. Work experience in Franc with this article detailing some of his training

Hashida ‘Hatch’ Kenjiro – helms Hashida Sushi in Singapore.
 Hatch epitomises the Japanese tradition of sushi chef training by his father – stealing knowledge by observation. Started at 12 cleaning tables after school. Only at 14 was he allowed to assist in the kitchen. He still follows traditional processes as learnt from his father but his presentation is modern and often inspired by modern art. He takes procurement of ingredients seriously. All fish is air-flown from Tokyo and he visits the suppliers often to maintain person to person relationships.
Another overview plus video of sushi making from ieatishootipost.

Julien Royer – head chef at Odette, a fine dining French restaurant 
Julien grew up in a family of farmers where his grandmother, Odette was his first cookery teacher. His philosophy is of using simple food as the best ingredients and then continuing with minimal cooking and modernistic plating. Keeps taste pure rather than masking natural favours. Uses smell and sound to enhance the dining experience. Not just to push boundarie and innovate for the sake of innovation, but to stick to the basics and do them well. Offers a vegetarian tasting menu J Stresses the importance of educating the palate for young chefs. Uses a collaborative style for training emphasising co-creation of dishes.

Loh Pik Peng
 A hotelier and restauranteur with 20 hotels/restaurants inSingapore and a trendsetter and also in Sydney, Shanghai and London. He specialises in identifying the x factor in chefs so that each restaurant is subsequently successful. An innovative, creative and technically well versed cook may not actually make a good chef. Running a restaurant also includes the business side of things.
Began with Ember as his hotel needed a restaurant. Then webt on to open a whole series - Restaurant Andre, Majestic restaurant, The Study, Cheek by Jowl, contributing to revival of heritage areas around Singapore.
He is from a family of foodies – father, grandfather and studied law before beginning the unlisted collection.
First hotel / restaurant in late 1990s and early 2000s, a challenging time due to financial recession. Learnt by doing and distilled factors that would contribute to successful restaurants. See this article for his ideas on entrepreneurship in hospitality.
Focuses on quality food accompanied with quality service, ambience / atmosphere and attention to details.Mentors promising chefs to helm his restaurants. Currently employs 170 chefs / cooks. Programme profiled 3 of his chefs, a multinational group with an Australian, Sri Lankan, Singaporean but is now working to support and groom local chefs. Especially the ones who are keen to  work with locally sourced ingredients and provide a distinct Singaporean interpretation to fine-dining.

As one of the most experimental chefs in Singapore and the flag-bearer for emerging Modern Singapore cuisine, Han Li Guang reinvents well-loved local dishes into something never encountered before. Think chicken rice without chicken and rice, and chilli crab ice-cream. 
Article for more background information found here.
Han is a banker turned chef with little formal cooking background. He completed his apprenticship to a fine dining restaurant when he first started out. He had to learn basic skills rapidly but sought to stay true to his food philosophies. Reads voraciously to expand his horizons and obtain learning on techiques.
Han brings ingredients together to make familiar Singaporean dishes with a twist. Experimental cuisine reinterpreting the food Han loves to eat but to push the boundaries to define and elevate flavours and come up with something unexpected. Articulate in explaining how his cuisine has developed and his reflections on how he goes about innovating. See this article for more. For example, how to present Hainanese chicken rice and make it a culinary taste adventure. So the dish honours the ingredients and presents a surprise take on something which is familiar to Singaporeans. As he is working with iconic Singaporean dishes, the challenge is made greater. R and D is intensive and time consuming. His goal is to create something unique to his personality but retaining the integrity of his philosophies on cooking. Advocates for the need of young potential cooks to not only learn Western cuisine but to be also train in how local food is produced.

Malcom LeeCandlenut specialising in Peranakan gastronomy – 
The food of my childhood. Ieatishootipost video with American ambassador being introduced to Peranakan cuisine. 
Malcolm odernised the ‘fusion’ of Malay and Chinese cuisines. He honours the integrity of hallmark Peranakan dishes but presents innovatively. Traces the development of his journey towards paying attention and respect to traditional dishes, based on the recipes of his mother. Moved Peranakan food up a notch from its home cooked food foundation towards fine dining expectations. He originaly refined the classic dishes to satisfy his own vision / palate expectations of the dish by creating either a better version or a modern version. The episode also covered the challenges of introducing diners to new interpretations of familiar and beloved favourites. While studying towards his undergraduate degree, he interned at several fine dining restaurants in Europe, strengthening his resolve to become a chef. After graduating, he studied at cooking school in Singapore. Peranakan cooking has always been based on the cooking of the family, the traditional dishes cooked by grandmothers. Malcolm’s goal is to stay true to the roots of Peranakan cooking but to also modernise and extend the cuisine.
Innovation includes the use of ingredients traditionally used in savoury dished in sweet desserts. An example being their signature dish, buah kelauk ice cream. The bauk keluak has a distinct flavour and traditionally cooked with chicken, giving the dish a very dark black colour and a distinctive bitter end note. Using the buah kelauk in ice cream extended the nuttiness and chestnut like texture into a smooth, ice cream.
Persistence and adherence to his foundational philosophies pay off with the attainment of one Michelin star in 2016. What began as a passion, evolved into an obsession. Eventually, the business stress caused him to re-evaluate his priorities and to seek better work-life balance.

Andre Chiang – restaurant Andre
Andre helms the third-placed restaurant in Asia and 32 in the world and a restaurant on the list of top 10 restaurants in the world worth a plane ride. Andre is renown for creating degustation menu with 8 courses. His food is innovative, visually attractive and adventurous in taste and texture. Based on octo philosophy, the eight essentials of dishes. Meals are to be an experience, with the 8 dishes spaced across 3 hours and matched with appropriate wine, service techniques and accompanying serving theatherics. An example, seared meat, served with heated stones and covered with a range of herbs and spices in a closed container. The dish is enhanced with the aromas, textures and ‘surprise’ elements.
Menu elements change each day. The lunch menu is a ‘menu in process’ based on what is available at the market each morning. His mother was a chef in Taiwan and some of this legacy, the importance of food and eating, is reflected in his cooking. Moved to the South of France at 15 and trained in a 3 star Michelin restaurant. He had to train his palate towards what was expected in a French kitchen.
He is able now to blend eastern and western philosophies of cooking, bringing elements of the best of each culture into his current repertoire. Provided example of how he worked with foie gras to create a unique product to lighten the dish but acceptable to the French palate. Always seeks to retain the natural flavours of the food but adds sufficient elements to enhance and improve the natural ingredient. It is a daily collaborative effort to maximise the ingredients available to create the best interpretation, worthy of service to his customers.

The series is beautifully filmed. A must see by anyone interested in how cooking evolves with its strong links to socio-cultural connections.The food videography is done well so best to view each episode after you have eaten :) 
Indications there will be more episodes to come in series two.

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