10 STAR CHEFS & RESTAURATEURS
Having watched them evolve and achieve success over the years, we find out what these toques and businessmen (and women) are up to now. By Eunice Lew
1. André Chiang André Chiang needs no introduction, having been a major figure in Singapore’s culinary scene since he first led JAAN par André on 2008, before helming Restaurant André for eight years. At the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 awards, shortly after two Michelin-starred Restaurant André’s closure on 14 February, Chiang was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award. epicure paid our own tribute, featuring him in the cover story of February 2018 issue, in which you can find five dishes that most exemplify one of Chiang’s eight culinary principles, Memory. Having returned to Taiwan, Chiang is now in the process of building his new home outside Taipei county and shifting his head office to Taipei as AC Global and AC Design – the former oversees his seven restaurants (including Porte 12 in Paris and RAW in Taipei) and two new upcoming projects, while the latter focuses on promoting his creative talents such as pottery and sculpting. Chiang is also dedicating more time to giving speeches, holding workshops and world conferences, as well as working with Taiwanese research volunteers to collect data on Taiwanese flavours and heritage. 2. Cynthia Chua If anyone were to name a female titan of the F&B industry, Cynthia Chua, the founder of Spa Esprit Group, is it. She’s up there with fellow entrepreneurs such as Wee Teng Wen and Loh Lik Peng. A strong sense of business acumen was what won her epicure’s Excellence Award during our fifth anniversary bash, for her daring and innovative concepts such as Tippling Club and bochinche, which have injected a jolt of vibrancy to the F&B scene. Her company has grown to encompass 16 brands and 100 outlets worldwide. Chua most recently unveiled The Butcher’s Wife, which offers hearty, gluten-free fare by chef Diego Jacquet of bochinche. Next, she plans to revamp her restaurants’ wine menus to completely comprise natural wines, set up a natural wine festival, and expand Spa Esprit Group’s foray into urban farming with a new concept complete with a rooftop farm.
3. Jason Tan
One of Singapore’s homegrown talents, Jason Tan cut his teeth at top French tables Les Amis and Le Saint Julien Restaurant, and rose to the position of executive chef at Justin Quek’s Sky on 57 in just four years. Flying the Singapore flag high, he was crowned the Bocuse d’or Singapore champion in 2008 and went on to clinch the bronze trophy at the Bocuse d’or Asian Selection at Pudong. Launching Corner House in 2014 was a milestone as he has since maintained one Michelin star since 2016 and is No. 36 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list. As a testament to his talent and creativity, epicure awarded him the Epicure Chef of the Year accolade in 2015. Tan whipped up stunning creations for our April 2015 Art on a plate anniversary issue. We couldn’t be prouder of this heartland chef.
4. Loh Lik Peng
The prolific hotelier and restaurateur of Unlisted Collection once professed that he’s not trying to build an empire, but no one will doubt that he’s already achieved that. Loh Lik Peng currently has six hotels and 25 restaurants in five countries under his well-notched belt, such as one Michelin-starred Cheek by Jowl and No. 12 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list, Burnt Ends. Most recently, he added Blackwattle in Singapore, A1 Canteen in Sydney, and Trinity Lodge in Dublin to his stable. Watch this space for more news.
5. Carlos Montobbio Since earning acclaim for his Asian-inspired tapas while at Fairmont Singapore’s Anti:dote bar, the Barcelona-born chef – who has worked at El Celler de Can Roca and Zuberoa – has been one of the industry’s golden boys. Headhunted by Unlisted Collection to take over Esquina after Andrew Walsh’s departure in 2015, Carlos Montobbio is as zealous as ever. He plans to introduce a 14-course tasting menu that chronicles the evolution of Esquina’s cuisine since its opening six years ago. Late last year, he also launched a monthly Tasting Room initiative, which provides diners the opportunity to collaborate and offer feedback on off-the-menu creations, some of which make it onto Esquina’s main menu. 6. Wee Teng Wen Managing partner Wee Teng Wen has come a long way since he started the company in 2005, now with 14 brands under The Lo & Behold Group. But he’s not resting on his laurels. Earlier this year, Wee unveiled Straits Clan, an members’ club (which took over Unlisted Collection’s New Majestic Hotel premises) for Singapore’s creative folk to gather and share ideas; and Le Bon Funk, a natural wine bar. Soon to open is Esora, a kappo-style Japanese fine dining restaurant. Moving forward, Wee says, “I think we could definitely do with more cross-industry collaborative concepts. I really believe that our new-age members’ club, Straits Clan, will be a platform for leaders in their respective fields to connect and nurture meaningful partnerships that will evolve into truly exciting concepts for Singapore’s landscape.”
7. Rishi Naleendra
We’ve had our eyes on Sri Lanka-born Rishi Naleendra since he moved here from Australia in 2015 to head Maca at the Tanglin Post Office. Impressing diners with flavour-driven dishes, Unlisted Collection quickly snapped him up when Maca announced its closure, tasking him to revive the Sorrel restaurant space on Boon Tat Street as his own project, Cheek by Jowl. Proving Loh Lik Peng’s knack for talent, Cheek by Jowl earned one Michelin star in 2017 and Naleendra became the first Sri Lankan chef to attain Michelin status for his restaurant. Having just completed a two-week pop-up in London, following a slew of overseas engagements, the sought-after toque now intends to shift his focus back to his restaurant. There’s also the chance of expanding overseas in the future. “It all depends on how Cheek by Jowl performs in the next year,” Naleendra says.
8. Beppe de Vito
Restaurateur-chef Beppe de Vito of the illido Group first set foot on Singapore’s shores in 1995 as part of the opening team of Bice at Goodwood Park Hotel. Since then, he has opened Rossi Ristorante (now shuttered) and Garibaldi Italian Restaurant & Bar with thenbusiness partner Roberto Galetti, before unveiling his first solo venture, illido, in Sentosa. Now, the group comprises seven concepts, the newest of which is Room for More, a whisky lounge in Dempsey. “At the moment, it’s all about pushing the illido Group to the next level – we’re asking ourselves how we can be better at what we’re currently doing, what more can we do, and how we can make our existing or new concepts more accessible and relatable,” de Vito says. For example, Amò now offers pizzas with low-gluten buckwheat and kamut flours. At SONS, they achieved their long-term vision of launching a full range of Italian grocer goods (such as homemade pastas and cured meats) on retail via Redmart, to much success. He reveals, "Come this September, we’ll be opening a Greek concept, of which we are still working out the details.”
9. Julien Royer
The crown jewel of The Lo & Behold Group, two Michelin-starred Odette’s success can no doubt be attributed to chef-owner Julien Royer’s leadership. We’ve seen him come into his own when helming JAAN – who can forget his heirloom beetroot variation signature dish? – then blaze a trail with Odette, reaching new heights each year, though the restaurant has been open for just three years. Case in point: Odette debuted at No. 9 on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2017 list, and climbed to No. 5 in 2018, becoming Singapore’s best restaurant on the list. Just last month, the restaurant made its debut on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2018 list at No. 28 to stand alongside Narisawa, Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, and D.O.M. Never one to let success get to his head, the humble and affable chef was behind our January 2018 cover story, in which he created vegetable-forward dishes in myriad hues.
10. Yew Eng Tong
We’ve worked with Yew Eng Tong several times over the years, and each time, we were struck by his steely determination to succeed. In the past six years, Yew has participated in the Bocuse d’or biennial competition thrice, each time ranking in the top two for the Asia leg. Yew also recently consulted for the Sri Lanka Bocuse d’or team for the Asia Pacific selection. Having left Resorts World Sentosa, Yew moved to Hong Kong four months ago to join his ex-boss, chef Edward Voon, at Le Pan as chef de cuisine and Voon’s right-hand man; the two previously worked together for seven years at Tower Club Singapore, Dolce Vita and the nowdefunct Aurum. While his goal now is to help Voon score Michelin stars, Yew won’t dismiss the chance that he might return to Singapore and strike out on his own.
Le Bon Funk’s Vegetable Crudités and Whipped Roe