SAM AIS­BETT

Chef-owner, White­grass

Wine & Dine - - BEHIND THE SCENES: VISIONARIES -

Born in Melbourne and raised in the Whit­sun­day Is­lands of North Queens­land, chef Sam Ais­bett left school at the age of 15 and be­came an ap­pren­tice at his fa­ther’s butcher shop, where he made sausages and sliced meat. He later joined Club Croc­o­dile, a ho­tel, as a kitchen as­sis­tant, where he spent most of his time scrub­bing dirty dishes. Since then, he’s worked at sev­eral cities around the world in­clud­ing Syd­ney, Queens­land, Brisbane, Gold Coast and London, and cut his teeth at top fine din­ing in­sti­tu­tions such as Tet­suya’s by chef Tet­suya Wakuda, and Quay.

What’s your take on Sin­ga­pore’s fine din­ing scene?

Although there are more ca­sual op­tions open­ing up in Sin­ga­pore, there will al­ways be a place for fine din­ing. Din­ers these days are bet­ter trav­elled and have a more re­fined and sea­soned palate, hence fine din­ing is evolv­ing rather than di­min­ish­ing. Es­tab­lish­ments are step­ping up their game to meet the so­phis­ti­cated de­mands of din­ers to­day, look­ing be­yond just serv­ing de­li­cious food on the ta­ble but pro­vid­ing an im­mer­sive, all-round high qual­ity din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Qual­ity restau­rants in Sin­ga­pore are get­ting their de­served recog­ni­tion, both lo­cally and glob­ally, thanks to pres­ti­gious awards from Miche­lin Guide and Asia’s 50 Best Restau­rants, and this is ex­tremely en­cour­ag­ing in en­sur­ing that the fine din­ing scene stays com­pet­i­tive and main­tains high stan­dards.

Has the con­cept of fine din­ing changed over the years?

Apart from ex­pect­ing im­pec­ca­ble ser­vice and high qual­ity food in a fine din­ing restau­rant, din­ers these days are look­ing for unique and in­ter­ac­tive din­ing ex­pe­ri­ences too. Din­ers are drawn to restau­rants that of­fer some­thing new and re­fresh­ing.

What has kept you in Sin­ga­pore all these years?

I feel a sense of affin­ity to Sin­ga­pore. I have al­ways loved Asia and my cooking has al­ways been heav­ily in­flu­enced by Asian cui­sine, hence it was quite an easy de­ci­sion to pick Sin­ga­pore as the place to start a restau­rant. I love the food cul­ture here and ev­ery­one is so pas­sion­ate about food. The palate in Sin­ga­pore is global and peo­ple are open and ad­ven­tur­ous. It is very en­cour­ag­ing to see peo­ple en­joy­ing my cui­sine and it makes me want to cre­ate more in­ven­tive dishes.

More top restau­rants around the world are get­ting on­board the lo­ca­vore move­ment, what do you think are some of the rea­sons driv­ing chefs to­wards this di­rec­tion?

Din­ers are bet­ter in­formed and ed­u­cated these days. They want to know what they are eating, where the pro­duce comes from and how they are grown. At White­grass, we pride our­selves on us­ing the best qual­ity pro­duce that we can find in Aus­tralia, var­i­ous parts of Asia and in­gre­di­ents that are grown lo­cally.

Do your din­ers ques­tion the price point when they learn that your restau­rant is serv­ing dishes pre­pared with lo­cal pro­duce?

We are thank­ful that our din­ers are knowl­edge­able and ap­pre­ci­ate the high qual­ity pro­duce that goes into their dishes. To en­sure that din­ers have a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the dishes they are eating, our team is well trained to an­swer any queries and share more in­for­ma­tion on these unique, qual­ity in­gre­di­ents on the menu too.

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