Most professional chefs face hectic schedules daily and are incessantly toiling away in the kitchens. When they get the chance to travel, they head to their favourite food capitals to get inspired, or back home for some comfort food and relaxation. The Peak gets exclusive dibs on what the following chefs did when they went on holiday this year.
1) Julien Royer, chef-owner of Odette
What’s the first thing you’d eat when you’re back in France?
The first thing I eat when I get home is my mum’s ‘pate de pomme de terre’, which I ‘pre-order’ from her. It is basically a warm tourte made of potatoes, puff pastry and lardon, which I love! Plus a side of green salad from our garden. It’s so comforting!
What do you miss most about home?
What I miss most about home are the seasons, especially coming from a place [Cantal, France] where the four seasons are so distinct. As a chef, the changing of seasons is most inspiring as we are able to create and adapt dishes using ingredients which are at its peak at that point in time.
We are fortunate enough to be surrounded by nature and have been really lucky with the abundance of produce where we live. Living on the farm, our family also spends a lot of time tending to agriculture and cooking. My mum, for example, is an outstanding cook who knows how to prepare EVERYTHING – charcuterie, breads, stews, tarts and pastries, soups and ragouts.
The most memorable part of my summer was harvesting honey and beeswax with her. We will be using the beeswax we’ve harvested for Odette‘s canelés. We also picked plenty of fresh veggies from our garden. For example, our tomatoes were picked at 11:45am and eaten less than 45 minutes later! Unbeatable!
2) Carlos Montobbio, head chef of Esquina
When you went back to Spain this year, which restaurants did you visit?
During my trip to Barcelona, I visited many restaurants including Dos Palillos and Pakta, which both have one-Michelin-star, Spoonik, and La Mundana. I also went to Can Tito in Cadaqués.The most memorable was Dos Palillos – they do Asian cuisine (mainly Chinese, Japanese and Thai) with typical Spanish products. All the dishes were great and innovative, and use high quality produce. The staff was great as well. I recommend it to any Singaporean visiting Barcelona – they’d love it.
Do you have any recommendations for other great dining spots in Barcelona?
I’ll recommend Bar Mut for tapas, Disfrutar and Cinc Sentits for fine dining, Restaurant Barceloneta for paella, and Vila Viniteca for cheese degustation – they have more than 120 different cheeses. Also I recommend a visit to Santa Caterina Market, which is much less crowded than Boqueria Market but have almost the same offerings. A lot of top chefs from Barcelona go there to get their ingredients!
What kind of Spanish food do you crave most that you can’t get in Singapore?
I can get pretty much everything in Singapore, as I work with many Spanish ingredients [at Esquina], but definitely I can’t get food cooked by my mother and grandmother. I always ask my mother to prepare fricandó (beef stew with dried moixernons (local Catalan mushrooms) when I am home.
This last visit I did a trip that I had been wanting to do for very long time. I rented a Harley Davidson for two days, and visited three of my favourite wineries – Gramona, Ferrer Bobet and La Vinyeta – all of them are based in Catalonia.
3) Emmanuel Stroobant, chef-owner of Saint Pierre
Which was one of the most memorable dining experiences you had when you went to San Francisco this summer?
We went to Saison which was amazing. It was the first time hearing music by Police and Bowie being played in a three Michelin-starred restaurant. Service was friendly (even with the kids). And the food, of course, was perfect – from the huge spoon of ‘reserve’ caviar to the wild strawberries. The kids had all the strawberries! We went to Benu too. State Bird Provisions was another spot I wanted to visit, but we had no time.
What was the best part about your trip?
Every moment was great as it is very rare for me to spend time with my loved ones without any work stress. Besides dining, I think a visit to the aquarium was one of most fun times. I love this city and I think it is a place I could live in.
When you travel, what are you are most excited about besides trying new foods?
Meeting locals and discovering their living habits – those are probably the best ways to really travel.
What is the next destination on your bucket list?
So many! Starting with Bhutan, Argentina, Kyoto etc.
4) Moon Kyung Soo, executive chef of Mikuni, Fairmont Singapore
What do you usually do when you are back home in Korea?
I will always take my wife and two children with me on our yearly trip back to Korea to visit family and friends. I must also have my fill of ginseng chicken and will always make a stop at Gangnam district. This trip, I was also watching a baseball game between Doosan Bears and KT Wiz.
You had a huge KFC meal at the baseball game in Seoul. How different is it from Singapore’s KFC?
Korean KFC is slightly different from Singapore’s in the marinade used for the chicken. Fries are also served instead of mash potato. The picnic box of KFC chicken that I was holding [pictured above] is only sold at the baseball stadium and was also my first encounter with it. The picnic box was made up of two Korean bulgogi burgers, two zinger burgers, six pieces of spicy chicken, four-piece chicken nuggets, corn salad and coleslaw; and was shared with a party of four friends.
Is there a Korean dish that you must eat when you are home?
I love the ginseng chicken at Tosokchon in Seoul and highly recommend it. Famous for their ‘samgyetang’ or chicken soup, the restaurant has had three generations helm the kitchen. Known to be a much loved restaurant by the former South Korean President, the restaurant is also known to be patronised by members of the Blue House.
5) Kirk Westaway, chef de cuisine of JAAN, Swissôtel The Stamford
What’s the first thing you’d eat when you’re home?
There are actually two of them. One, an English roast dinner; and the other, a cottage pie with homegrown vegetables – both of which hark back fondly to my English roots.
What do you miss most about home?
I definitely miss my family and friends [back in Devon]. I also miss the kitchen banter, something the Brits are well-known for. The jocose manner of the chefs in the UK livens up the kitchen atmosphere and is something I do miss about the UK.
What attraction/ restaurant in your hometown would you recommend?
I would highly recommend visiting Exmouth Beach. A personal favourite of mine and just five minutes from my house; the beach has a beautiful coastline to walk or drive along to take in all of nature’s beauty. You can also enjoy a bowl of fresh local blue mussels with a pint of craft ale along the beach. I would also recommend enjoying a nice dinner at Michael’s Cafe & Restaurant in my hometown. With the best seasonal ingredients from Exmouth and a large selection of seafood available on the menu, this intimate fine dining restaurant is a best kept secret.
Tell us more about Devon cows/ dairy products. How special are they?
Devon is synonymous for their high quality dairy products. In particular, their famous Devonshire clotted cream. At the same time, with its untouched pastures; the Red Devon Cattle, a traditional breed of cows, graze on the all natural grass in the hills of Devon that in turn produce excellent milk.
6) Angela May, chef of Angela May Food Chapters and TV host
You went to Chez Panisse in California this summer. How was your experience and how does Chef Alice Waters inspire you?
Chez Panisse is amazing. It’s like dining at this temple where ‘worshipers’ go to pay homage and we get to eat ‘real food’. The restaurant carefully selects the farmers to supply the produce. So the salads are just out of this world. They are fantastic especially in the middle of summer when produce is really at its peak. Alice Waters really was on the forefront of the movement of eating/using food that was grown locally without pesticides. I’m inspired to my core by this chef – it’s important to our health, environment, our children and our souls that we take better care our of world.
Which other dining spots would you recommend in San Francisco?
I always visit La Folie in Russian Hill whenever I’m in San Francisco. Chef Roland Passot is a dear friend, and his restaurant is a great example of featuring fresh harvested market ingredients in a fine dining setting. I have a great tip as well: go to the La Folie bar next door – it’s where lots of chefs go after hours to hang out. The vibe is perfect to let loose.
Roulette’s Larder in the Ferry Building is great too. It’s tucked away in the back corner and easy to miss if you’re in the Ferry Building on market day – but don’t miss it. The food is seasonal with a very delicate touch. They showcase the best of San Francisco’s produce especially since all the farmers come twice a week. Trestle in North Beach is another one that I highly recommend. The place is super lively and casual with very friendly staff. It has a vibe that really makes you feel like you’re part of the SF scene.
When you travel, what are the things that you are most excited about besides dining out?
I’m always hungry so it’s difficult to separate the eating / food part of my travels. For example, I LOVE museums. But I’ll go to a museum and plan where my lunch will be around the same area. I also love hiking – so going to Berkley for Chez Panisse was planned around a mini nature walk through the area, which has some beautiful natural rock formations.
What is the next destination on your bucket list?
That’s a tough one for me because I’m always travelling for work… Maybe Denmark? I’ve been meaning to go for ages now, plus I’ll be in Europe for work in January, so maybe I’ll pop by… time to bring out all the woolly jackets!