Category Archives: Interview

Behind The Apron: Moon Kyung Soo (Mikuni | Fairmont Singapore)

From using a syphon to create bonito broths to soaking octopus with sparkling water to keep its meat tender, the kitchen is Chef Moon Kyung Soo’s science lab. The Korean-born chef readily admits that being a Japanese chef, he has to work extra hard to differentiate himself from his Japanese counterparts. Indeed, Mikuni’s Executive Chef’s techniques have shown how blending century-old Japanese cooking methods with modern techniques such as dehydration and sous-vide cooking can create unique dishes with differing levels of flavours and textures.

His hard work has also paid off. Having worked at some of the best Japanese kitchens in Japan, Korea and the United Arab Emirates, he has cooked for numerous luminaries including the royal family of the United Arab Emirates, and even fellow Korean superstar, Rain.

But of course, it’s not all work no play for the jovial chef. We find out that he is actually a boy at heart.

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How did your passion for Japanese cuisine come about?

My passion started fifteen years ago and it stems from my love for the Japanese culture. Back then, J-pop, Japanese drama and fashion were very popular in Korea. Whenever there was a new Japanese drama, everyone wanted to watch it. However, I couldn’t understand a word as there was no translation.

So I started to learn the Japanese language. I even had a pen pal in Japan to practice the language with. My pen pal would send me all sorts of Japanese things – from Japanese dramas and music to Japanese instant noodles.

One day I came across an article about a Japanese chef who said he could give his heart to his guests through cooking. It was a powerful and beautiful message that appealed to me. For other cuisines, the chef may not know who he is cooking for. However, as a Japanese chef, I can give the food that I make with my hands and my heart to my customer.

Because of my love for the Japanese culture, I have completely changed internally to adapt to the Japanese way of life.

Behind The Apron: Sam & Forest Leong (Forest & Tangerine)

It has been said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. But what happens when he is a chef?

In this interview, celebrity chef Sam Leong and his culinary instructor wife, Forest share the secrets of balancing a successful marriage and business partnership. With over twenty years of marriage under their belts, it is not surprising that leading chefs in the industry have also approached Sam and Forest for relationship advice.

A word of advice from Chef Sam: “We don’t cook at home so don’t marry a chef!”

We catch a glimpse of the chemistry shared between the husband-wife team who founded Sam.Leong@Forest Cooking School and runs spa-cafe Tangerine located at ESPA of Resorts World Sentosa.

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 Why did you decide to enter the culinary world?

Forest: It was by circumstances. My father was also a chef. He did not encourage me to enter into the culinary world as he knew it was very tough – long hours, low pay, dirty job. But I really loved to cook since I was young so I wanted to give it a try although I saw that it was really tiring for my father.

Sam: She told me her father said don’t be a chef and don’t marry a Chinese chef!

Behind The Apron: Julien Royer (JAAN | Swissotel The Stamford)

Time is a luxury that Chef Julien Royer can’t afford. The Chef de Cuisine at JAAN shares that he would like to cook more often for his wife and friends. It is not hard to see why. Since attending cooking school at the age of 17, the native French chef has built up an impressive resume with stints at Michelin-starred restaurants in France and trainings under famous names in French cuisine such as Antonin Bonnet, Bernard Andrieux and the legendary Michel Bras. More recently, he was the Chef de Cuisine at Les Saveurs at the St. Regis in Singapore.

Since helming JAAN, Chef Julien and the restaurant have earned numerous nods from the culinary world including being named Rising Chef of the Year 2012 at the World Gourmet Series Awards, One to Watch and 22nd position at S. Pellegrino’s Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2013.

Yet, perhaps the best form of encouragement comes from his wife who has no special request whenever he cooks for her. “My wife always says anything I cook is good,” Chef Julien reveals.

We steal some time from his busy schedule to find out more about the man behind JAAN’s exquisite creations.

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How did you first know you wanted to become a chef?

I’m from the countryside in France. We grow our own fruits and vegetables and we have some animals as well. I grew up in an environment where we cooked a lot and I quickly realised that you could put a smile on people’s faces through food. I really liked that idea so I started cooking with my family. Soon, it became a habit and pleasure so I decided to attend cooking school.

Behind The Apron: Ivan Brehm (Bacchanalia Singapore)

From Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York, to working under Claude Bosi at Hibiscus in London and joining Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck, Chef Ivan Brehm’s resume reads like a Michelin guide. The 29-year-old Brazilian native is currently the executive chef of Bacchanalia. Together with sous chef Mark Ebbels and desserts whiz Kostas Papathanasiou, the trio is known for their experimental approach in the execution of dishes. It is not hard to see why with all three chefs hailing from Heston Blumenthal’s highly acclaimed The Fat Duck. We speak to Chef Ivan about his love for reinventing classic dishes and the inspiration behind it.

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How has growing up in Brazil influenced your approach towards food?

Growing up in Brazil was instrumental. I’m part Russian, Syrian, Lebanese, German, Italian and Spanish so I’m exposed to so many different influences and ingredients. I also grew up with big family reunions and everything happened around the dining table. Since my mother was working, the only time we spent together was at the dining table.

I never really made the jump between spending a lot of time in the kitchen with my family and becoming a chef. For me, that was never really obvious. Whenever I ate out, I thought food magically came out of the door. I didn’t realise that people were behind the scenes preparing it.

How would you describe your culinary style?

It is quite feminine and light. It is not very laden with butter and not very heavy in salt. We make sensible food. Sensible means everything is there for a particular reason. We don’t blast out and make dishes that fly. The whole idea is to make food that looks approachable and perks people’s curiosity. We want you to participate.

Behind The Apron: Peter Lind (Ben & Jerry’s)

After spotting an ad in the papers looking for a Ben & Jerry’s product developer in 1988, they say everything else is history. This could perhaps sum up the story of Peter Lind’s career at the well-loved ice cream company. Touted as one of the best jobs in America, Peter is part of a five-person team who create the different ice cream flavours for Ben & Jerry’s. In his 25 years working in Ben & Jerry’s R&D laboratory, Peter has introduced various flavors such as Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Chocolate Fudge Brownie, Rainforest Crunch, Coconut Almond Fudge, Cherry Garcia Frozen Yogurt and Purple Passion Fruit Sorbet.

We speak to Peter on all things ice cream.

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Did your love for ice cream begin as a child?

I would visit my grandmother who had bought a place by a lake and we didn’t have good water so I had to go next door with water jugs to get good water. On Sundays, our next door neighbours would make ice cream so I would always go over when they were making ice cream.