Father’s Day 2022: Chefs Share Kitchen Lessons From Dad
Four Singapore-based chefs pay tribute to their fathers who have shaped their culinary careers.
by Amy Van /
June 17, 2022
Whether it is meaningful life lessons, cooking skills, or values and principles gained from working in the kitchen, these chefs tell us how their fathers have taught and inspired them in their culinary careers.
Andrea Scarpa, Group Executive Chef of Da Paolo Group
“My father is a man of few words but a man of tireless action. As a child I watched him put endless hours in the kitchen and at home. To this day, I marvel at his ability to move what seem like mountains, with his two bare hands, [using] intelligent engineering and the resources that are available to him,” says Scarpa, whose father Paolo and mother Judie founded Da Paolo in 1989 as a modest trattoria serving authentic Italian fare.
“He has grounded me with a strong connection to nature. When I was a child, he would take me for camping [trips] in Malaysia, and we would make bow and arrows and start campfires with driftwood. He has instilled in me strength of character by often throwing me into the deep end and letting me find my way out, as well as showing me there’s always a way for those willing to look for it,” he adds.
Today, Scarpa, along with his sister and brother-in-law, have successfully evolved the family business into one of Singapore’s prominent food and beverage companies.
Zor Tan, Chef-Owner, Born
Growing up, Zor Tan witnessed the hard work and value of persistence of his father, Tan Ang Tow. It’s something that has stuck with him through the years.
“After closing a simple food stall that he ran with my mother, he shuttled between our home in Johor Bahru and Singapore to work at an abattoir despite being scared of blood. He felt faint at first sight, yet he continued working there to feed our family,” says the Malaysian-born chef.
“This taught me that no matter how big your fears are, you can overcome them and do better by focusing on the things that motivate or inspire you. When I was a young chef embarking on my culinary career, being persistent and tenacious helped me get through difficult times – when giving up would have been an easier way out. And as a father of two myself, I’ve also learnt that persistence is very important when it comes to parenting,” shares Tan, who is set to officially open Born, his new restaurant, on 21 June 2022.
This contemporary fine dining restaurant is located within the iconic Jinrikisha Station at Tanjong Pagar. The concept marries the elegance and subtlety of French gastronomy with the influence and knowledge of Chinese flavours and ingredients. Prior to this, Tan who’s a permanent resident in Singapore has helmed the acclaimed Restaurant Raw in Taipei, and Sichuan Moon in Macau.
“My mum and grandma taught me how to cook, but I learnt from my dad (Mark Ng Teng Thiam) how to eat. My dad was and still is the most adventurous diner I know. He’ll try anything at least once. I still remember the first time he visited me when I was working in China. He wanted to try all the street food, even the ones that most people would think twice about. This is an important trait for a chef. But the most important lesson I ever learnt from him was – always eat everything your mum cooks!,” says the chef.
Ng started out as an official “feather-plucker of chickens” in his grandmother’s kitchen and later worked at top French fine dining restaurants for over a decade in China, Hong Kong, and Singapore. The young Singaporean now runs Path, which is launched in partnership with lifestyle and hospitality group 1855 F&B. This contemporary restaurant at MBFC presents East Asian flavours, elevated with French finesse.
Joe Leong, Head Chef, Sonder
“My dad has always taught me to be humble, dedicated and thankful towards our work and to the people around us. Although it’s important to be committed to work, one must always have good ethics and management of time,” says Joe, who’s the son of well-known chefs Sam and Forest Leong.
“In terms of being humble and dedicated towards work and people, these lessons are so meaningful as my parents have constantly taught us that ‘people need people’. It’s about respect for everyone we have met along the way – from our mentors who have guided us throughout our career, to the stewarding/dishwasher who assists us in cleaning up – to make our work run smoother. This has reminded me to be thankful in anything and everything no matter how big or small.”
Helmed by Leong and his dynamic young team, Sonder aims to bring a new dining concept to the Henderson area – a bakery bistro by day, and by night, an “omakase” dining destination featuring two fixed price menus of Euro-Asian flavours and ingredients. The last few years, Leong has been working with V-Zug & V-Dining, where he did cooking classes as well as private dining and catering events.