Read our exclusive interview with Chef Andre here.
Since Restaurant André opened in 2010, it has been getting a lot of hard-won respect. From the slew of awards to getting noticed by the New York Times as a restaurant that’s worth a plane ride. But who would have thought? Andre Chiang, its Taiwanese-born chef-owner who has achieved permanent rock-star status in the realm of fine dining, has decided to return his Michelin stars and close the restaurant for good. He will serve his last course the coming Valentine’s Day and he’ll head back to Taiwan, where he will focus on one of his other restaurants, RAW. So to celebrate the legacy he leaves behind in Singapore, here’s a bit of trivia on the chef who knew he could.
He first learned to cook from his mother. He was young and had followed her to Japan, where she went from packing eggs in a factory to opening a Chinese restaurant in Tokyo. He began life in the kitchen as a kid, and at 13, he knew he wanted to further his culinary journey, not in Asian food, but French. He was 15 when he moved to France, where he turned a short stint into 15 long years.
He was the only Asian working at Le Jardin des Sens, where Jacques and Laurent Pourcel were two of the greatest influences he’s had in his career. He also trained with Pierre Gagnaire, Joël Robuchon and Alain Ducasse, and working with those Michelin-approved chefs taught him perfection and to push boundaries. Perfection became an obsession. In his biography, he said, “the moment I perfect a dish is the moment I let it go from my menu.”
He opened Restaurant André in October 2010. The restaurant occupies a three-storey shophouse that’s been around since 1930. There are only 30 seats, and people wait for months before they can step foot in it. In 2012, the restaurant won its first of many accolades. It ranked number 68 on the World’s 100 Best Restaurants list. This year? Two Michelin stars.
He believes in strategy, not luck. Talent, for Andre Chiang, is an ideal that’s realised only through discipline and practice. If you fail, try, try again. According to him, it all becomes intuitive and natural after a trying million times.
For him, creativity takes courage. “Many great chefs create good dishes for great restaurants. But for me, I like to create new things. This makes you a better person and artist,” he once said. And interestingly, the great chef that Andre doesn’t give a rat’s a** about cookbooks. Instead, he feeds on photography, architecture and fashion for inspiration.
He’s stern and reserved, but also compassionate. In 2013, Matin, his new pastry chef went missing before he could even begin his first day. He’d “disappeared”, and “stopped replying to [Chiang’s] emails.” Turns out he was left for dead in a hit-and-run in New York City. He’d survived, but was bedridden with a dysfunctional right hand. Chiang kept his job and insisted on waiting for him to recover.
“Cook with your brain, not your body,” he said to Matin. “You cook with your imagination. You smell strawberries, you smell somebody frying, it gives you inspiration. Combine and collect these flavours, and then you will get better.”
He co-owns Burnt Ends, where everything is smoked, slow roasted, baked and grilled over charcoal or wood. They are famous for both their Burnt Ends Sanger (a scrumptious pulled pork burger) and smoked quail egg that’s topped with caviar. He is also the co-owner of Bincho, Meat Smith, Porte 12 in Paris and RAW in Taiwan. You know the food is good when he has a hand in it.
He runs his kitchen with an ‘octaphilosophy’. When it came to defining the heart of Restaurant André, eight words came to mind – ‘unique’, ‘pure’, ‘texture’, ‘memory’, ‘salt’, ‘south’, ‘artisan’ and ‘terroir’. These form the DNA of every meal you have at Restaurant André, where every dish is equally important. There is no such thing as a starter or main course in his book.
Octaphilosophy is also the title of his book, which he launched last year. Here, Chiang will share his approach to food which combines both the technical precision of the east and flavours of the west. The year-long project documents 365 days of his time at Restaurant, featuring a foreword by his mother, recipes and very pretty pictures of dishes we can’t bear to eat.
Restaurant André will serve its last meal on February 14, 2018. Make your reservation over here