Chef-owner, Corner House
After passing through baptisms of fire at Les Amis, and other restaurants such as the former Le Saint Julien and former Sky on 57, homegrown chef Jason Tan struck out on his own, stamping his signature on Corner House, a modern European restaurant in the Singapore Botanic Gardens. Going along a self-monikered ‘gastro-botanica’ concept, vegetables are treated with as much decorum as carefully sourced meat, poultry and seafood. His signature dishes— Oignon doux des Cévennes, onion prepared four ways, and My Interpretation of Kaya Toast, a riff on a local breakfast snack, to name a few—have won him fans and accolades such as a Michelin star he has maintained since the guide’s Singapore debut in 2016.
Where’s fine dining going in Singapore with more chefs wooing diners seeking good food without the fine dining prices?
They will always be a place for fine dining especially in a gastronomic city like Singapore. As long we do it right, I am not worried at all.
How do you strive to give a top-notch dining experience despite the challenges of the industry?
The only way to survive is to provide even more exceptional cuisine and service to keep our guests happy and encourage them to return. If we start to compromise on the above, you will lose more guests and potential guests.
You advocate seasonality, provenance and terroir. How have you showcase them in your cuisine?
We work with seasonal produce a lot. My recent favourites are trombetta zucchini and white asparagus. I love to showcase the original flavours of such delicate products. For example, I steam the white asparagus and pair it with yellow mustard seed, honey, seaweed, clementine and garlic flower.
What are some new dishes you’re planning for next quarter?
I am inspired daily by different things, and the creative process is quite spontaneous. I have not
decided what to launch.
In recent years, there are more chefs taking inspiration from local flavours. Do you feel any pressure to come up with even more inventive heritage-inspired dishes?
No. My inspiration is not deliberate in that I am not creating a Singaporean-inspired dish because I am Singaporean. All the dishes I created and reinterpreted are for the love of those particular dishes, whether it’s kaya toast or oyster omelette.
What’s a new vegetable-centric dish you have in mind?
I am working with different varieties of eggplant and trying to bring out the best in them.
How much do awards matter to the chef and restaurant?
I opened Corner House simply to cook my cuisine and I am not cooking for accolades, though it is a great motivation and encouragement for the team and improves the business in the super competitive F&B industry in Singapore.
Do you still meet up with former Le Saint Julien restaurant chef Julien Bompard regularly and consult him as a mentor? Is there a strong mentor culture in Singapore?
I meet with my mentor at least once to twice a month. I still consult him regarding personal and professional matters as he always gives me useful advice. I think it is a two-way traffic when it comes to mentorship, and this varies from individual to individual. For myself, I am fortunate to have a great mentor like chef Julien to help me in my career.
What’s next on your culinary journey?
This is a question asked very often by many. My answer is still the same. I want to concentrate on building Corner House to greater heights.