Scottish chef Tristin Farmer, who has helmed Restaurant Zen for five years, has parted ways with the acclaimed dining establishment, marking the first chef shake-up among three-Michelin-starred restaurants in Singapore.
The 39-year-old will open his restaurant in Dubai later this year, after resigning from the executive chef position at the Singapore outpost of the Swedish chef Bjorn Frantzen’s restaurant empire in a carefully planned move that had been in the works for more than a year.
For Farmer, it is an opportune time to return to Dubai to start a new chapter of his culinary career. He was previously chef-patron at the now-defunct British-Mediterranean restaurant Marina Social in Dubai, which was part of British chef-restaurateur Jason Atherton’s The Social Company. He had also worked in restaurants by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay in the United Kingdom for close to seven years.
Farmer says: “It’s been my lifelong ambition to open my first restaurant and what better place to do it than in Dubai. I’m excited to come back! The city has changed so much since I was last there. It has such a great food scene and I remember the warmth of the people I met. I believe it’s a good place to be based in to push the boundaries of the culinary arts.”
The restaurant will be owned by Singapore-based restaurant company, Culinary Arts Group, where Farmer will also be Culinary Director and Chef Partner. He hopes to bring his expertise marrying two or more cuisines with the added nuance of understanding flavours, textures and ingredients to establishments under the group’s umbrella of restaurants that includes Revolver, a contemporary Indian grill restaurant, omakase restaurant Hamamoto and Chilean fine-dining restaurant Araya.
It will not be a goodbye to Singapore as Farmer will shuttle regularly between Singapore and Dubai, where plans to open another branch of Revolver are in the pipeline. His Dubai restaurant, whose name is still in the works, will be a yoshoku-inspired brasserie that draws inspiration from his diverse culinary background and proficiency in global flavours, emphasising on world-class seasonal ingredients. Farmer will oversee both his restaurant and Revolver in Dubai.
Speaking to The Peak at a recent industry event, Farmer shared that part of his move to Dubai was motivated by being closer to his seven-year-old son, who lives in Scotland. Farmer shared that being based in Dubai would make it more convenient to visit his son more regularly, as he has been using the Gulf Tiger as a transit point for his trips between Singapore and Scotland.
Under the stewardship of Farmer, Restaurant Zen became one of the buzziest — and priciest fine-dining restaurants in town. He also steered the restaurant through tough times during the pandemic, when the restaurant pivoted to do takeaways such as ice cream waffles. The restaurant is also one of the earlier ones that implemented a five-day work week in Singapore, sparking more establishments to follow suit. Over the past year, Farmer has also been involved in the setting up of Brasserie Astoria, a casual concept imported from Sweden by the Frantzen Group that opened last August.
A hotly-tipped name for the executive chef position at Restaurant Zen is Malaysian chef Toraik Chua, who is more fondly known as T.C. Chua, who has worked at Noma in Copenhagen and the flagship Restaurant Frantzen in Stockholm, has been with the Frantzen Group for four years. Chua has worked at Zen since September 2018, and has been personally groomed and trained by Farmer to take up the top post.