FOOD & WINE

Get to Know Some of Singapore's Top Chefs Beyond the Kitchen, Part 1

by Anton D. Javier
07 Jun 2024

These chefs and professional cooks are responsible for some of the best restaurants and most memorable meals you’ll ever have in Singapore. But outside of their kitchens, how do they eat? Where do they eat? We find out where these tastemakers shop for their essentials, what they cook at home, and where they go to eat in their free time.

  • LOUIS HAN, CHEF FOUNDER, NAE:UM GROUP
  • EDDIE MURAKAMI, MASTER PIZZAOILO, BEYOND THE DOUGH
  • ANGUS CHANG, CHEF-OWNER, SUSHI HARE
  • JORDAN KEAO, CHEF DE CUISINE, BUTCHER'S BLOCK

LOUIS HAN, Chef Founder, NAE:UM Group

Ever since Chef Louis Han broke into the food scene, he took Singapore’s obsession with South Korean food to the next level. Find fine dining iterations of it at One Michelin-Starred NAE:UM and an elevated take on convivial Korean barbecue at the recently opened GU:UM.

Can you share a core memory that involves food, which was instrumental in your journey towards becoming a chef?
As a child, I was always very excited about science. I remember watching a chef on TV one day making a delicious dish out of common ingredients, and it dawned on me that cooking is a form of science. And when executed well, it has the power to instantly bring joy and make people happy. I also grew up in an area in Seoul where there is a mix of Western culture with traditional Korean food, so that instinct of "let's mix things up" has been instilled in me throughout my childhood. 

When shopping for yourself, what are the essentials that always go into your shopping basket?
Milk, yoghurt, and kimchi. 

Is there a particular specialty food store or market in Singapore that you like to visit to source for more specialized ingredients? What do you usually buy there?
I used to go to Jun's Butchery in preparation for home BBQ sessions. They carry quality cuts that are pre-marinated in the Korean style, and their selection of banchans are delicious. However, I've not had time to shop for myself in recent months as I was busy with the launch of GU:UM. 

When it comes to food, what is your guilty pleasure? And when cooking for yourself, what is your go-to dish?
For a late night "yasik", there is nothing like Korean fried chicken and beer. I don't really cook for myself, but when I do cook at home, I tend to lean towards stews. I cook braised beef stew and ginseng chicken soup occasionally for dinner with my in-laws. If I ever find some free time, I'd love to go back to cooking pastas since my first stint as a chef was at an Italian restaurant. 

When hosting at home, what are the usual dishes you’ll prepare?
When hosting friends at home, we often crave Korean food, so I usually order a large batch of bossam. If time permits, I’ll prepare the bossam and some home-made pajeon as side dishes, as these are relatively simple to whip up. The secret is to make an umami dip to go along with the simple boiled pork and seafood pancake. 

What are the top 3 restaurants/eateries you frequent when dining out on your own?
Sodeng, Putien, and Chicco Pasta Bar

  • LOUIS HAN, CHEF FOUNDER, NAE:UM GROUP
  • EDDIE MURAKAMI, MASTER PIZZAOILO, BEYOND THE DOUGH
  • ANGUS CHANG, CHEF-OWNER, SUSHI HARE
  • JORDAN KEAO, CHEF DE CUISINE, BUTCHER'S BLOCK

EDDIE MURAKAMI, Master Pizzaoilo, Beyond the Dough

Beyond the Dough is currently one of the top tables around town, thanks to the charred, puffy, and flavorful pizzas expertly made by Eddie Murakami. The Japanese pizzaiolo honed his craft in top Japanese pizza joints, such as Pizza Strada and Pizza Studio Tamaki. 

Can you share a core memory that involves food, which was instrumental in your journey towards becoming a chef? 
Meeting Mr Yamada, the owner of Oyamadai Yamada, was a turning point in my career. He was a senior pizzaiolo when I joined Pizza Strada. He inspired me to pursue excellence for both pizza and wine.

When shopping for yourself, what are the essentials that always go into your shopping basket? 
Onions. Onions add richness and depth to dishes.

When it comes to food, what is your guilty pleasure? And when cooking for yourself, what is your go-to dish? 
Grilling thick-cut beef fillets to my liking. There's something deeply satisfying about the sizzle of the meat hitting the grill, the aroma wafting through the air, and the anticipation of that first juicy bite. 

There's another dish that holds a special place in my heart: "Shougayaki”, the beloved Japanese stir fried dish of pork and ginger. In my opinion, every Japanese child grows up with a fondness for this dish, and I'm no exception. 

When hosting at home, what are the usual dishes you’ll prepare?
I enjoy serving a variety of raw fish and shellfish along with the perfect beverage pairing – sake. The seafood’s natural flavors complement the crisp and clean flavors of sake extremely well. 

What are the top 3 restaurants/eateries that you frequent when dining out on your own? 
I’ve yet to have the chance to properly explore Singapore due to my busy schedule at Beyond The Dough, but I’m happy to share a few of my favorite establishments in Japan: Oyamadai Yamada, Teatro Acca, and Pizza da Vinci Tokyo.

  • LOUIS HAN, CHEF FOUNDER, NAE:UM GROUP
  • EDDIE MURAKAMI, MASTER PIZZAOILO, BEYOND THE DOUGH
  • ANGUS CHANG, CHEF-OWNER, SUSHI HARE
  • JORDAN KEAO, CHEF DE CUISINE, BUTCHER'S BLOCK

ANGUS CHANG, Chef-Owner, Sushi Hare

The Taiwanese chef is quietly making waves in Singapore’s Japanese food-obsessed community thanks to his expertise in crafting sushi. At the same time, he is not one to shy away from adding his own creative flair to more traditional Japanese dishes. 

Can you share a core memory that involves food, which was instrumental in your journey towards becoming a chef?
I landed my first job as a part-time server at a fine-dining sushi restaurant in Taipei when I was 17 years old. I witnessed the chef’s immediate satisfaction he got when guests enjoyed the sushi presented to them – this was a significant moment for me that sparked my passion for hospitality and sushi-making. After graduating and serving national service, I returned to the same restaurant to work, but this time round, in the kitchen to train as a sushi chef. I’ve remained dedicated to this craft for the past 20 years and continue to shape my own personal style of sushi-making. 

When shopping for yourself, what are the essentials that always go into your shopping basket?
I am quite sensitive towards the taste of water, so I only buy a particular mineral water brand from Taiwan. Stocking up on this is a must whenever I’m at the supermarket. I will also stock up on breakfast essentials like Greek yoghurt and fruits, such as apples and blueberries. Breakfast is important to me as my next meal will usually be in the late afternoon. 

Is there a particular specialty food store or market in Singapore that you like to visit to source for more specialised ingredients? What do you usually buy there?
I appreciate the quality of the fresh produce from Meidi-Ya Supermarket and would get ingredients like Japanese eggs and beef. 

When it comes to food, what is your guilty pleasure? And when cooking for yourself, what is your go-to dish?
Whenever I’m back in Taiwan, I will always head for 咸酥鸡 (Taiwanese fried popcorn chicken). Whether it’s from a standalone store or from a night market stall, I will always make it a point to get it amongst other snacks like deep-fried **** sausages or vegetables. 

When I have the chance to cook for myself, my go-to dish is hotpot. I enjoy the simplicity in the preparation and the freedom to add any ingredients I like. My favorite soup base is a clean-tasting dashi and I have it with ingredients like beef shabu slices, fresh local vegetables, and sometimes Taiwanese-made ingredients like fish balls.

When hosting at home, what are the usual dishes you’ll prepare?
When friends visit, I typically prepare a simple home-cooked meal. For example, 卤肉饭 (braised minced pork rice) with other dishes like vegetables and meat. It is a Taiwanese dish that I consider as my comfort food. 

What are the top 3 restaurants/eateries that you frequent when dining out on your own?
1. Imperial Treasure Super Peking Duck – I enjoy coming here for their pecking duck and dim sum

2. No Menu Restaurant – The homey ambience is very relaxing and cosy. They are our neighbors at Boon Tat Street and the chefs and I are friends.

3. He Zong Carrot Cake – This is my go-to carrot cake stall in Singapore. It has a nice balance of sweet and savory flavours, and is cooked till slightly crisp. 

  • LOUIS HAN, CHEF FOUNDER, NAE:UM GROUP
  • EDDIE MURAKAMI, MASTER PIZZAOILO, BEYOND THE DOUGH
  • ANGUS CHANG, CHEF-OWNER, SUSHI HARE
  • JORDAN KEAO, CHEF DE CUISINE, BUTCHER'S BLOCK

JORDAN KEAO, Chef de Cuisine, Butcher's Block

Chef Jordan Keao is on a mission to introduce more people to the exciting world of Hawai’ian gastronomy at Butcher’s Block, utilizing ingredients, flavors, and cooking techniques unique to the island state, all while championing a sustainable, zero-waste culinary approach.

Can you share a core memory that involves food, which was instrumental in your journey towards becoming a chef?
Growing up in Hawai’i, we would gather to eat and ‘talk story’. Whether it’s extended family members or neighbors, we would all gather and help out by digging imu pits (underground ovens), building the fire, laying out the whole pig along with other ingredients like lau lau and sweet potato, and bury it with hot rocks under banana leaves to cook for six to eight hours. While waiting for it to cook, we would ‘talk story’, a Hawai’ian expression of passing time by chit-chatting and getting to know one another. At the end, we’d unveil the imu and see the smoke emerge and the cooked pork and enjoy it together. The community aspect of everything coming together to build, cook, and eat is very much aligned to the sense of ohana, which means ‘family’ in our native language

This is a core memory for me as it made me fall in love with food and cooking. The energy and vibe of everyone hanging out and cooking a delicious meal was amazing. It inspired me to become a chef as the act of cooking for someone has always felt the most fulfilling and generous. 

When shopping for yourself, what are the essentials that always go into your shopping basket?
My go-to is K-market (Koryo Mart) at Parkway Parade. I go once a week to get different types of banchan like cabbage kimchi, perilla leaf kimchi, radish kimchi, and namul. I will also pick up my favorite Korean instant noodles. 

Is there a particular specialty food store or market in Singapore that you like to visit to source for more specialised ingredients? What do you usually buy there?
For meats, I visit Butcher Box because they bring in a lot of premium ingredients. The quality is excellent, and a lot of the marination and stuffing are done in-house. I always get fresh minced beef, sausages, and fish. 

When it comes to food, what is your guilty pleasure? And when cooking for yourself, what is your go-to dish?
My guilty pleasure is rice with spam, American bacon, and eggs for breakfast. It is something I would enjoy when I’m back in Hawai’i or prepare whenever I am homesick. 

If I’m just cooking for myself, my go-to dish is instant noodles. I use Japanese instant ramen and add miso paste, eggs, sometimes cabbage, and shiitake mushrooms. Occasionally, I’ll add beef or pork collar shabu slices. 

When hosting at home, what are the usual dishes you’ll prepare?
I like having Hawai’ian Barbeques whenever friends are visiting. It is something that I enjoyed growing up in Hawai’i so I’m happy sharing this experience with my friends. Hawai’ian barbecues reflect the melting pot of cultures of my homeland. The different types of meats and marinades are inspired by the different ethnic groups. My friends can expect food like char siew, Korean galbi, hot dogs, and steamed rice. 

What are the top 3 restaurants/eateries that you frequent when dining out on your own?  
1.Keng Eng Kee Seafood – Whenever I have friends who visit me, I would bring them here. They have the best local Singaporean dishes and seafood. 

2. JB Ah Meng Restaurant – This is also another spot I like to go to for Chinese style dishes.

3.Mee Pok from Keng Bee Restaurant – This is my go-to breakfast spot near my house.