2016 was the year that Singapore became internationally recognised as one of the world’s hotbeds of culinary talent. It was the first year that Michelin, the undisputed barometer of good taste, included the South East Asian nation in its guide.
At Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle, from behind a barrier of braised chicken and roasted meats, newly minted Michelin-starred chef Chan Hon Meng – or Hawker Chan as he is fondly known – works at a furious pace, hunched over his chopping board, his well-worn overalls covered in soya stains.
Hawker Chan’s now famous food stall in Chinatown Complex has the unusual accolade of serving the world’s cheapest Michelin-starred meal, where lunch is half the price of a McDonald’s Big Mac.
The single-minded, passionate entrepreneur, who still works 17-hour shifts on his stall, dreams of becoming a global franchise. He’s already opened three branches of Hawker Chan eateries across Singapore and several more across South East Asia.
From the street hawkers of Singapore’s food centres, we go to Candlenut on Dempsey Hill, the world’s only Michelin-starred Peranakan restaurant.
Chef and founder Malcolm Lee learnt to cook at a young age under the watchful eyes of his mother and grandmother, blossoming into one of Singapore’s most exciting culinary talents. But achieving international acclaim hasn’t been easy.
Chef Malcolm says he’s sacrificed relationships and health to make his restaurant a success, and took a risk by turning his back on the French, modern European style he learnt as a young chef. Instead, he stayed true to his roots by taking diners on a culinary journey through his Peranakan heritage.
That risk has paid off, and in the restaurant’s new space on COMO Dempsey, one of Singapore’s up-and-coming lifestyle destinations, Chef Malcolm is embarking on the next chapter of an exciting journey to put local cuisine on the global map.
Janice Wong is another rising star of Singapore’s culinary scene. The former recipient of Asia’s Best Pastry Chef award founded her own restaurant 2am:dessertbar, where she combines her incredible technique with an artistic flair, creating beautiful desserts that are every Instagrammer’s dream.
But chef Wong’s life could have been very different. At 22, she was training for a career in finance before a visit to a farm in Melbourne changed everything. She discovered a passion for curating ingredients and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, working in kitchens in Spain and North America after graduating.
Today she’s helping to showcase Singaporean cuisine around the world, starting in Tokyo and Hong Kong. Her vision is spreading through the power of social media; from early on, she understood that food is just as much about the visual experience – after all, we taste first with our eyes!
It’s been one year since Singapore was awarded its first clutch of Michelin stars, and the country now has 157 restaurants listed in the Michelin guide – with its local cuisine fast becoming internationally recognised. So why not embark on your own gastronomic journey in Singapore and discover new flavours to inspire you?