If there’s one Christmas gift that’s going to be in the stockings of chefs and other avid cooking enthusiasts this year, it’s likely to be a Thermapen. No less than four F&B personalities that we spoke to recommended this latest infrared meat thermometer that has been hailed as the best in its class for its ability to read the internal temperature of your expensive rib roast in less than three seconds – crucial when you’re juggling an open oven door and an excruciatingly hot roasting pan. If you’re still cracking your head over what to get your favourite food lover (a Thermomix or large tin of caviar with vintage champagne notwithstanding), chefs and food-loving personalities offer up some suggestions which range from gadgety to stylish; quirky to heartfelt. Everything you need to spread some tasty holiday cheer.


1. Jeremy Nguee

Chef-owner of Preparazzi and Batu Lesung Spice Company

Napoleon Charcoal Pro Leg Grill; Beer Can Chicken Accessory; Spice pastes.

“I like to buy things that I know my friends and family will enjoy and use often – something new or just something indulgent that they might never get for themselves. Gadgets are great for guys and anything with the latest technology like a remote thermometer probe, or fun weekend project equipment like a BBQ smoker. Cookbooks from my favourite authors are lovely, otherwise I get hard-to-find or seasonal ingredients such as toddy for making bika ambon or Vacherin Mont D’or cheese which is now in season. And of course, some nice spice mixes from Batu Lesung!”

Gifts: Napoleon Charcoal Pro Leg Grill, S$649. Beer Can Chicken Accessory, S$43.90. Available from Decofix DIY Store, Tel: +65 6875-1657. Spice pastes from Batu Lesung Spice Company.


2. Loh Lik Peng

Hotelier/Restaurateur, Unlisted Collection

Ong Shunmugam Suvarnabumi tableware; Arthur Zaaro wooden cutting boards from sustainable locally-sourced wood.

“This year I would love to get some of the new Ong Shunmugam chinaware that Priscilla Shunmugam just launched. It’s got a beautiful local design language and it would be the perfect Christmas gift.”

Gifts: Ong Shunmugam Suvarnabumi tableware; Arthur Zaaro wooden cutting boards made from sustainable locally-sourced wood.


3. Beppe De Vito

Chef-restaurateur, Il-Lido Group

Olive oil, vincotto and nuts from Art restaurant (only for regular customers); Demeter Biodynamic Olive Oil.

“I love to gift my friends and loved ones top-notch produce that has a traceable provenance. Unique seasonal fruits and vegetables, nuts, olive oils and speciality sauces such as vincotto are on the top of my list. I usually fly them directly from Italy, straight from my olive oil farm or harvested on my relatives’ farms. For me, this makes the gift so special as I know that I am giving presents that are lovingly grown and free of harmful chemicals. And every year when I return to Italy, I look forward to pickled and preserved vegetables grown by my father and prepared by my mother, like sun-dried tomatoes, pickled peppers and olives.”

Gifts: Olive oil, vincotto and nuts from Art restaurant (only for regular customers); Demeter Biodynamic Olive Oil, S$46 from QueerBeets.


4. Lennard Yeong

In-house chef for Miele Singapore

The Food of Northern Thailand by Austin Bush; Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4; Marou chocolates.

“I would give a Thermapen. Temperature governs almost all cooking in the kitchen. Whether you’re a novice or amateur cook, a thermometer comes in incredibly handy for checking the doneness of your meat or fish. Also, a good high temperature spatula is another essential in the kitchen. Chocolates – I used to hate receiving them because I’d only eat a quarter or half a box and feel sick of it. But lately, one of my favourite things to do is to place two or three pieces onto sliced bread while they’re toasting, so the chocolate melts into a quick and easy spread. Add some flaky sea salt or peanut butter for a salty-sweet treat. I also like giving cookbooks and my favourite this year is from photographer Austin Bush, who spent a lot of time documenting northern Thai food. His book captures some lesser known dishes (even to Thais) brilliantly.”

Gifts: The Food of Northern Thailand by Austin Bush, US$28.45 from Amazon; Thermoworks Thermapen Mk4, US$99 from Thermoworks.


5. Christopher Tan

Chef and cookbook author

Brass wok; Enamelware by Hai Seng Porcelain; Mockmill; Javara Kecap Manis Kacang Gudhe.

“A brass wok makes a really good gift. It is still favoured for traditional cooking in Thailand, especially kueh and desserts, but it is scarce in Singapore now even though it was a common workhorse in Eurasian and Peranakan kitchens. It conducts heat so beautifully, and is gorgeous to look at. There’s also old-school enamelware which we can now get in more colours and more robust weights than were available decades ago. They’re nostalgic and versatile, you can steam food in them, use them for serving and transport food in them. But what I would like to receive for Christmas would be a mockmill, because I can’t afford one! I would use it to grind grains for kueh, bread and other things.”

Gifts: Brass wok  from Amazon; Enamelware by Hai Seng Porcelain; Mockmill; Kecap Manis Kacang Gudhe from Javara.


6. Willin Low

Chef-restaurateur, Relish and Roketto Izakaya in Singapore and Niseko

Marmite Peanut Butter, UK; Pescarolo detachable handle set.

“I’m terrible at buying gifts but recently I bought some Marmite Peanut Butter from London which is not available in Singapore, and will only give them to friends who can appreciate the strong flavour of Marmite in a savoury peanut butter. Just add chilli paste to it and you have an awesome dipping sauce (think satay). Right now I’m in Niseko setting up our restaurant Roketto, so I’m staying in a rented apartment. These Japanese pots with detachable handles are great for storage and for going straight from the stove into the oven.”

Gifts: Marmite Peanut Butter, UK; Pescarolo detachable handle pot set from Amazon UK.


7. Cavaliere Giovanni Viterale

General Manager, The Fullerton Hotels and Resorts

Panettone, The Fullerton Cake Boutique; Daylesford UK Organic small batch Panettone; Villa Estense Aceto Balsamico Di Modena Argento balsamic vinegar, Culina.

“For a foodie, the best gift is that of a home-cooked meal. During Christmas, I always prepare a simple nice meal for my foodie friends with fresh and smoked salmon, my mother’s recipe of homemade ravioli with ricotta, and roast duck. We will finish with some zabaglione, panettone and Moscato! I am an Italian far from home, so for Christmas, I would also want to give my foodie friends here in this part of the world a taste of Italy. I will look for artisanal, handcrafted gourmet gifts such as panettone, small batch, best quality extra virgin olive oils and top shelf-aged balsamico, or ‘black gold’.”

Panettone from The Fullerton Cake Boutique, S$48; Daylesford UK Organic small batch Panettone, Tel: +65 9171-4177; Villa Estense Aceto Balsamico Di Modena Argento balsamic vinegar from Culina.


(Related: Give the gift of looking good, with The Peak’s Christmas 2019 guide)

This article was originally published in The Business Times.

(Photo: @kadh / Unsplash)