What is your earliest memory of cooking?

I was 3 years old. I remember waking up early in the morning on one weekend while my parents were still asleep. I went to the kitchen, pushed the chair to the cabinet, climbed up and grabbed a tin of Milo (instant chocolate powder). I opened the fridge and found an open can of condensed milk. No, I didn’t make the hot chocolate drink. I noticed half of a loaf of sliced toast bread. I took a piece, spreaded condensed milk on the bread and sprinkled Milo powder all over it. When my mom woke up, she came to the kitchen and saw me gobbling it down my throat. She was shocked! To this day, I vividly remember the look on her face and the taste of that sweet chocolate sandwich I made.

When did you decide that this was something you wanted to do professionally?

For the first few years working as a cook, I would work 16-hour shifts, six days a week. Due to the amount of labour in the restaurant kitchens, I originally thought it’s not something I could do professionally. However, it all changed when I started to work as a Banquet Chef in a hotel. The shifts were a classic eight hours a day, the money was decent and I was regularly getting promoted! That was when I realised that I was quite a decent cook and I could actually do this for a living.

I don't usually talk about food: I eat it and I cook it. For me, it’s the best way to learn, express and to communicate.
How would you describe MOD's cuisine and what dishes did you serve on our plates?

I actually have a problem describing food. I don't usually talk about it: I eat it and I cook it. For me, it’s the best way to learn, express and to communicate. MOD’s cuisine has been changing and evolving throughout the years, but I would say it’s just an extension of me. My thoughts, emotions and experiences, they all go into the plate. Initially, I was very rigid with the concept of a French bistro food with asian flavours. Again, it’s because of my personal experience: I’m Asian but with a French culinary background. Nowadays, however, I guess I’ve become more flexible with the food I make. Depending on the season (and my mood), the dishes in MOD vary. At any point, they could be influenced by Indian, Thai or French cuisines, But my latest set of dishes are tilting towards Japan and Korea. 

Today, I’m serving you my side dishes, including Panisse (chickpea fries) with garlic and pickled lemon mayonnaise, Grenaille potatoes with tamarind aioli and lime leaves powder, and Pearl lebanese couscous with pumpkin puree, chili oil and parmesan. I also prepared Dumplings filled with beef bourguignon, wasabi gel, creamed red wine jus and pecorino cheese and Celariac Dauphinoise with Comté and caramelised onion. And last but not least, I made a mini version of one of our main dishes — Orzo with octopus, confit egg yolk, squid ink, and garlic breadcrumbs.
How would you describe your culinary inspirations?

What inspires you, what shaped your way of working?
When I started working in the kitchen, my inspirations had been always leaning towards classic European fine dining, very “cheffy”. That was what I was taught and I wouldn’t look at any other styles of cuisines. Over the years, however, I feel like I matured and became more open towards other culinary cultures and cuisines, especially the flavours I grew up with in Singapore. More recently, I get excited and thus influenced by new flavours during my travels. I once ate octopus cooked in grape molasses at a side street taverna in Greece. It was such a new sensation for me, and I knew I had replicate those flavours to my kitchen.

Who are your culinary heroes? 

My mom and my late grandfather. I aspire to cook like them. The dishes they made were very complex in flavours but more importantly, they were made with lots of love. It’s really hard to put into words, but they would just warm up your soul. This is something that I’ve always aspired to capture and, hopefully, one day I will get there. My mom makes the best Rendang that I know. My whole family loves it! I also look up to all the street food aunties and uncles in Asia, who mastered their craft. They are perfecting one dish by cooking it day after day, year after year, with such a panache, skill and passion. For me, these are true culinary heroes.

How not to burn out as a chef? Do you have any ways to keep your energy up and new ideas coming?

For me, it’s just the perseverance and being mentally strong. Working 15-16 hours a day as a young chef wasn’t easy. I hated it, but I knew I had to do it in order to become a professional. I just had to put my head down and get on with it, because of the respect I had to my head chef, my fellow cooks and, more importantly, to myself. To keep my energy up today, I try to sleep well — after fighting insomnia a couple years back, I finally sleep like a baby and wake up with a new energy to life. Another important thing is traveling. Experiencing another culture and places has always given me new ideas and different perspective on life in general. I try to learn from other cultures, especially on how they cook and what they eat. Food cultures has always inspired me with what I do in MOD.
What is the most memorable culinary experience of your life?

Back in 2003/2004, I was working in a famed Michelin-starred French restaurant in London. It was my first gig after leaving Singapore. I was designated to the garnish section and It was completely overwhelming for me. I've never seen red radishes, pattison, salsifi or whole artichokes. All that was very foreign and so exotic to me. One dish I hated to prepare was Petits Farcis. So, one day, when the Chef said A marche! Un petit farci!, my anxiety raised to the roof! Like always, I started to prepare it, but this time, I forgot to cook the risotto first and instead prepared all the veggies. After about half an hour, the Chef is asking for all the dishes to be plated up, including my Petit Farcis. I didn't have the guts to tell him that my risotto is still raw and hard as I only cooked it for about 20 minutes. I did the most stupid thing and served the dish with undercooked risotto! Simultaneously, other cooks gave their dishes that were for the same table as my Petits Farcis. The other dishes were fish, lamb and filet mignon. When all the dishes were on the pass, the chef inspected them, carefully and meticulously, one by one. I was hoping that he wouldn’t notice my raw Risotto. He then took a small tasting spoon, scooped up some of my yellow saffron Risotto and put it in his mouth. At this point I was sweating profusely. Chef’s face started to contort with such an utmost disgust. Then he said in a very calm but scary and harsh way. “Do you really think I would sell this raw risotto for 35 quid and jeopardise my reputation?” I apologised, and he went on to shame me in front of all the team: they had to remake their dishes from the scratch, just because mine was faulty. Everyone gave me murderous stares, and while I felt completely defeated, I just had to carry on. Until today, I have never had risotto in any of my menus in MOD or any establishments prior. This is my chef trauma and definitely one of my most memorable (sadly, in a negative way) culinary experiences.

Why did you choose ÅOOMI for your restaurant?

As a Chef, plates are one of the many things that I constantly touch and feel. ÅOOMI plates have a very nice “feel” to it. They are made with a high level of craftsmanship and thus, elevating the ingredients that are placed on them.
ÅOOMI plates have a very nice “feel” to it. They are made with a high level of craftsmanship and thus, elevating the ingredients that are placed on them.
ÅOOMI plates have a very nice “feel” to it. They are made with a high level of craftsmanship and thus, elevating the ingredients that are placed on them.

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