DownToEarth 青出于蓝

ZbBZ (Singapore) - - GOURMET - TAN PIN YEN/ 陈彬雁 龙国雄

When Ja­son Tan was do­ing his Na­tional Ser­vice, he used to blow his $300 mil­i­tary al­lowance each month at fancy restau­rants. This is not the case of yet an­other young man who thinks noth­ing of spoil­ing him­self. In­stead, he was do­ing re­search.

“It wasn’t for any­thing else,” says Tan can­didly. “I just wanted to ex­pe­ri­ence each restau­rant by ac­tu­ally dining there, so I could de­cide which to ap­ply to work for.”

The 32-year-old, who cuts a ro­bust fig­ure not only in per­son but as a ris­ing star on Sin­ga­pore’s culi­nary scene, is the co-owner and cap­tain of the kitchen in Cor­ner House. He had al­ways dreamed of mak­ing a mark on the culi­nary scene, and by all counts, he has done it. It is a priv­i­lege to watch his fleshy fin­gers work such del­i­cate and pre­cise magic on the plates that are served at this charm­ing restau­rant set in a black-and­white colo­nial in Botanic Gar­dens. When he is fo­cus­ing on his cooking, he leaves his trade­mark jolli­ness at the door and lets his 10 years of train­ing in French cui­sine do the talk­ing.

“I was read­ing about Paul Bo­cuse and learnt that his restau­rant was in a vil­lage with gar­dens all around. It’s the same here. The point is, there used to be a wall be­tween me and my cus­tomers. But here, I can do what I want to do and I can ex­press my­self.”

Cor­ner House is the lat­est in a path of right turns that char­ac­terise Tan’s ca­reer. At 22, af­ter his Na­tional Ser­vice stint was over, Tan aimed to join Les Amis – a wise choice con­sid­er­ing the restau­rant’s re­pute. For the first month, he did noth­ing but prep the veggies and ex­pected to be do­ing the same for some time. But the chance of a life­time changed cour­ses for him, when Gun­ther Hubrech­sen, then the restau­rant’s chef de cui­sine, “lost his right- and left-hand men”, ex­plains Tan. “I was then be­ing trusted to pre­pare the pi­geon, lamb, wagyu beef, suck­ling pig, all kinds of fish. I even learnt how to han­dle sauces.”

Thrown i nto the deep end, he soaked up knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence in the kind of quan­tity and pace that a young ap­pren­tice could only dream of. “The best way to learn is through ex­pe­ri­ence. Mere knowl­edge is not enough,” he says of his in­tense eight months at Les Amis.

A stint at Le Saint Julien fol­lowed, af­ter which its chef Julien Bom­pard rec­om­mended him to French star chef Joel Robu­chon’s three-Miche­lin-star Robu­chon a Galera (later Robu­chon au dome) in Ma­cau.

Those Ma­cau days will al­ways re­main with him, he says.

“My job ev­ery day was to count the pep­per seeds and j uniper berries i nside the stor­age room. The num­bers in the recipes were al­ways odd fig­ures like 53, 62 and what have you. I then no­ticed that ev­ery­one else in the kitchen was do­ing his own thing so I didn’t ask, de­spite my cu­rios­ity. Later on, I re­alised that a lot of peo­ple were like me: They didn’t know the rea­son be­hind what they were do­ing ei­ther. They were just fol­low­ing the in­struc­tions. There, no­body cared what you’ve ac­com­plished be­fore. You just had to do it the Robu­chon way.”

The en­vi­ron­ment was stress­ful, he re­calls. “When­ever the chef yelled for some­thing, he would send ev­ery­one scur­ry­ing around. But I l earnt the im­por­tance of dis­ci­pline and pre­ci­sion.”

Tan re­turned to Sin­ga­pore when he was re­cruited by Sin­ga­pore’s star chef Justin Quek to join Ma­rina Bay Sands’ Sky on 57, as the restau­rant’s chef de cui­sine. The lease for the lo­ca­tion of Cor­ner House came up when Au Jardin closed its doors and Tan seized the chance to run his own show.

Gate­way Veg­etable

Tan of­fers his own in­ven­tive take on gas­tro-botan­ica cui­sine at Cor­ner House, yet ad­mits in his very open man­ner that he did not care much for veg­eta­bles in the past.

An onion, how­ever, changed his mind. Specif­i­cally, it was an onion from France – Cevennes, to be pre­cise.

“Gun­ther was trained by Alain Pas­sard, so he was re­ally in­spired when it came to veg­eta­bles,” says Tan. “I tried Cevennes onions for the first time at Les Amis, and to­day, I can still taste it on the tip of my tongue.”

That onion was his gate­way into the world of fresh and de­light­ful veg­eta­bles, and he has since honed the abil­ity to treat th­ese sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents with a mod­ern and sen­si­tive touch. In fact, at Cor­ner House, he serves Oignon doux des Cevennes, a de­gus­ta­tion of Cevennes onions pre­sented in four ways: An onion and parme­san topped bis­cuit, de­hy­drated onion chip, onion egg with truf­fles, and a foamy white onion broth driz­zled with onion tea. To make the tea, it takes 500g of onion to brew up 200ml of caramelised onion ex­tract which is then in­fused with Earl Grey. The re­sult is a fragrance that is out of this world.

“It i s the process I en­joy,” Tan says. “It’s the chal­lenge of ex­tract­ing all of the in­fi­nite pos­si­bil­i­ties from the most or­di­nary of veg­eta­bles, and to find a way of tast­ing you’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced be­fore.”

He en­joys rein­tro­duc­ing veg­eta­bles to his din­ers, ev­ery­thing from roots and tu­bers like gin­ger, scal­lion and beet­root, to veg­eta­bles grown above ground like mush­rooms, gar­lic leaves and cau­li­flower, as well as climbers like tomato, grape and fig.

The menu i s not veg­e­tar­ian, but i s de­signed to cel­e­brate the veg­etable. Cara­binero Prawn, for

The like­able Ja­son Tan emerges from the shad­ows of his celebrity men­tors for his star turn at Cor­ner House, where gas­tro-botan­ica

cui­sine is the high­light一直躲在名厨后面的陈日锃,终于在植物园一栋黑白洋房里找到属于自己的天地,他的草本植物系料理,让人吃出



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