For chef Andre Chiang of Restaurant Andre, 2017 is clearly off to a flying start. At the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants awards held in Bangkok just a week ago, Restaurant André was voted a very respectable No. 2 in Asia by the awards’ judging panel. Which makes it just one of nine Singaporean restaurants in the list—alongside Les Amis, Jaan, Burnt Ends, Corner House et al—and the top restaurant in Singapore.
Wine & Dine was very privileged to catch up with chef Andre Chiang at Restaurant Andre, where he prepared six dishes exploring the depths of saltiness for our March issue, The Salt Issue.
Salt is a key tenet of your culinary philosophy, Octaphilosophy. Tell us why it is integral to your cuisine.
It is not just about how salty a dish is, or the different types of salt used. It has to do with exploring the depths of saltiness, the wide and diverse spectrum—for instance, lardo versus anchovies versus soy sauce—and how it spotlights the ingredients without overwhelming them, such that the two-dimensional becomes three-dimensional.
For me, salt is like light; it lights up the ingredients.
Which was your most memorable ‘salt’ dish?
“Rice ball” [a dessert of toasted rice milk ice cream and puffed rice]. The sweetness of this dessert comes from that little pinch of salt that you sprinkle on top at the end. It is unexpected, but it brings out all the sweetness of the dish.
What is your favourite salt?
It has to be garum [fermented fish sauce]. It is natural and it has so much flavour. It is probably the oldest MSG in the world!
On Career Milestones & Next Steps
We understand that 2016 was a very special year for you. Why?
It was an incredible year. For my book Octaphilosophy, we created 186 dishes in 365 days. It was a documentary of everything we created and served in Restaurant Andre.
I also turned 40 last year, and for my birthday, I wanted to run the restaurant that I have always dreamt of and also to cook with my 21 friends around the world. And that was exactly what I did. My book tour took me around the world to 21 different countries where I got to cook with my friends.
Most people are familiar with Restaurant Andre, but many don’t know that you are also behind a few other restaurants.
Besides Restaurant Andre, I have five other restaurants, which I co-own—Raw in Taiwan, Porte 12 in Paris, and Burnt Ends, Bincho and Meat Smith in Singapore. I don’t believe in branding them under Restaurant Andre or Andre Chiang, as I am not cooking in those kitchens. I believe that every restaurant should be created for its neighbourhood, its space and community—the people, the culture and the produce around it. Every concept must have its own identity. And I want each of these independent restaurants to have their own clientele.
Restaurant Andre has gained international standing. What’s next in terms of the restaurant’s evolution?
I want to place Singapore on the world’s food map. By that, I mean that every international city has an iconic restaurant—I want Restaurant Andre to be that iconic restaurant.
What most excites you about the culinary scene today?
The various crossovers by different chefs and the exchange of ideas. For the older generations, everyone saw each other as competition. But now, there are pop-ups and four-hand and six-hand dinner, where you have chefs working with each other. I find it very exciting.
What’s next for you on a more personal level this year?
This year, I am cutting down on my travelling, but I will be bringing my friends to me at Restaurant Andre through collaborations. We will have chef Dan Hunter with us in June for some special dinners, and I am really excited about that.
How do you feel about being the second best restaurant in Asia and the best restaurant in Singapore, according to Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list?
This is definitely a great start this year for Andre’s group and my brigade… Seven years have passed [since Restaurant Andre opened], but we never lose sight of our original intention, our passion and our promise to our guests. We continue to live up to expectations and push the boundaries. Most importantly, our goal never changes. We strive to give Singapore and Asia an iconic restaurant like no other.
Team effort may sound cliche, but for me, ‘Best Restaurant’ means ‘Best Brigade’, and I truly believe I have the best brigade, therefore I have nothing more to ask for.