THE AL­CHEMIST:

CHEF RISHI NALEENDRA, CHEEK BY JOWL

Herworld (Singapore) - - LIFESTYLE -

Chef Rishi Naleendra hates cook­ing. To be pre­cise, he hates the te­dious, rou­tine ex­e­cu­tions that cook­ing en­tails. “I can’t cook bangers and mash or av­o­cado on toast for a liv­ing. I don’t en­joy the rou­tine of stand­ing in a sec­tion and bast­ing meat,” he says can­didly. “What I en­joy is be­ing able to cre­ate, oth­er­wise I’ll be bored.”

You could say Chef Rishi op­er­ates like a sci­en­tist, spend­ing weeks just ex­per­i­ment­ing with dishes – cal­i­brat­ing flavours and tex­tures un­til he gets the per­fect bal­ance. The 32-year-old, who used to play gui­tar in a grunge band, likens great food to a good song. “You can’t lis­ten to an un­bal­anced song. If the bass is too much, that’s the only thing you hear, and that means you’re miss­ing out so much [in the rest of the song].”

His menu re­flects his ob­ses­sion with achiev­ing bal­ance. Take for ex­am­ple a sim­ple dish of goat’s cheese. It’s served with horse­rad­ish (for heat), pick­led raisin dress­ing (for sweet­ness and acid­ity) and salt­baked beet­root (for oomph), all of which work to­gether to cut through the cloy­ing creami­ness of the cheese.

And the Miche­lin­starred chef’s pen­chant for ex­per­i­men­ta­tion means he some­times strikes gold. He re­calls roast­ing mack­erel bones to make broth, and when that didn’t work out quite the way he wanted, he de­cided to crush the bones and use them to crust the fish in­stead. It worked per­fectly. “Some­times an idea comes in a mat­ter of min­utes, and some­times it takes months or even years to put on a plate. If you don’t put in that ef­fort, you can’t cre­ate any­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary.”

You won’t find luxe in­gre­di­ents in Chef Rishi’s kitchen. In fact, the sim­pler, the bet­ter, so he can put his cre­ativ­ity and tech­nique to the test. He says: “I’m my big­gest bar­rier. And I try to outdo my­self ev­ery day.”

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