JA­SON TAN

Chef-owner, Cor­ner House

Wine & Dine - - BEHIND THE SCENES: VISIONARIES -

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.

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