Jeremmy Chiam is young, tal­ented and will­ing to risk it all


Jeremmy Chiam is young, tal­ented and will­ing to risk it all

If not a chef, he would have wanted to be a po­lice­man, specif­i­cally a plain­clothes po­lice­man in the Cen­tral Nar­cotics Bureau or the Se­cret So­ci­ety Branch of the Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tion De­part­ment. In­stead he stud­ied engi­neer­ing, dipped his foot into the heady waters of F&B, then went on a grand culi­nary tour of the world via Sin­ga­pore Air­lines as a stew­ard. But the kitchen is where his heart and soul are. It took about 4 years, but Jeremmy Chiam even­tu­ally made it back.

To­day, the 32-year-old is the chef-owner of Le Bin­chotan, a stylish 36-seater tucked away in Gem­mill Lane. The restau­rant was first opened in 2016, and Chiam had come on­board as head chef. Over a year into the op­er­a­tion, the owner dropped a bomb­shell. She was mi­grat­ing and was plan­ning to sell out or shut down. With the help of some friends, Chiam stepped in and bought over. “Le Bin­chotan was my baby too,” he says.

He hasn’t looked back since. At Le Bin­chotan, he con­tin­ues to re­fine his Ja­panese-French dishes and menu, blend­ing tech­niques, in­gre­di­ents and in­spi­ra­tions from both tra­di­tions, al­though Chiam ad­mits that he spends less time in the kitchen these days. His sig­na­ture dishes in­clude Uni & Caviar, where Ja­panese corn is cooked in ba­con broth, then made into an umami-laden cus­tard and mousse, and paired with creamy tongues of wild-caught ba­fun uni and shoyu pearls; and Smoked Choco­late, a rich, heady dessert fea­tur­ing Val­rhona choco­late cold-smoked with ap­ple wood then melted with but­ter.

De­scribe your ap­proach to cui­sine.

I be­lieve in cre­at­ing some­thing that has an every­day fa­mil­iar­ity, yet still has a touch of the ex­tra­or­di­nary. I’m most in­spired by my men­tor who can make some­thing sim­ple taste in­cred­i­ble.

Why Ja­panese French cui­sine?

Mar­ry­ing French tech­niques and in­gre­di­ents to the Ja­panese pen­chant for grilling on bin­chotan was the con­cept be­hind Le Bin­chotan when it first opened. I had to bear that in mind when I took over.

Through­out my ca­reer, I have also worked in kitchens helmed by Ja­panese chefs, whether it was a Mod­ern-Euro­pean, French or Ital­ian restau­rant. These chefs have left a deep im­pres­sion on me with their tal­ent and ded­i­ca­tion.

One chef in par­tic­u­lar re­ally in­flu­enced me, and I con­sider him my men­tor. His name is Hiroki Yoshi­take. I met him when I worked in the for­mer The Jewel Box on Mount Faber. He’s now the chef-owner of one-Miche­lin­starred Sola in Paris. I ad­mire him very much, both as a per­son and as a chef. As a per­son, he’s a de­ter­mined, dis­ci­plined man. As a chef, his cui­sine is inspiring. Hiroki has worked in French cui­sine and in France since he was 17 years old. His pas­sion, tal­ent and ded­i­ca­tion to French cui­sine have shaped my own di­rec­tion. Of course, his fas­tid­i­ous taste­buds have in­flu­enced my own—I love both French and Ja­panese food.

What’s your favourite in­gre­di­ent from each of the re­spec­tive cuisines?

For French cui­sine, I have to say it’s French but­ter. French but­ter is one of the best but­ters out there in terms of flavour and fat content. I also love the ver­sa­til­ity of but­ter; it’s mag­nif­i­cent. For Ja­panese cui­sine, it’s kombu. In terms of flavour, it’s full of umami with­out be­ing over­whelm­ing and as a bonus, it’s rich in fi­bre, vi­ta­mins, min­er­als and amino acids.

Who do you find most inspiring in the in­dus­try?

Daniel Boulud. Not only is he an amaz­ing chef, he is also a suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man. Also, my men­tor, Hiroki Yoshi­take. When he opened Sola, he earned his first Miche­lin star within a year!

From chef to chef-owner, de­scribe your tran­si­tion.

I find man­ag­ing a busi­ness much more stress­ful than run­ning the kitchen. I am still work­ing hard to smoothly tran­si­tion into be­com­ing a busi­ness owner, in ad­di­tion to be­ing a chef.

What new chal­lenges do you face as chef-owner?

I love to cook, but I cook much less nowa­days, so that’s been slightly painful. It’s been a chal­lenge— ac­tu­ally it’s re­mained a chal­lenge—to learn the ropes of man­ag­ing a busi­ness suc­cess­fully. There are so many dif­fer­ent com­po­nents that I need to take into con­sid­er­a­tion.

I’m do­ing much more plan­ning, co­or­di­na­tion and ad­min­is­tra­tive work—and it took me quite a while to get used to it, in ad­di­tion to the end­less meet­ings needed to en­sure ev­ery­one is prop­erly up­dated. I am still the most com­fort­able in­side my kitchen.

I am also very con­cerned about keep­ing the qual­ity of my food and ser­vice con­sis­tently high. I am lucky to have a very good team, who are very close-knit—but I still wish I was the one with my hands on the pan, so to speak.

Any ad­vice you would like to share with other young chefs who are look­ing to start / run their own restau­rants?

Do not start un­less you are will­ing to risk every­thing to the point of los­ing it all. Do not look only at the glam­orous side of be­ing an owner. “Owner” is just a ti­tle that in­di­cates heav­ier re­spon­si­bil­i­ties.

Re­mem­ber that be­hind the glam­our, there’s so much more to lose, and it’s not just about your loss. You’ll have to take care of your staff too. In fact, your staff? They’ll be the peo­ple clos­est to you be­sides your fam­ily. You might even see them more of­ten than your fam­ily.

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