Noel Ng, chef de cuisine of research and development at Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel The Stamford is Singapore’s latest contender for the Bocuse d’Or championship.
He will be gearing up for the Bocuse d’Or Asia-Pacific selection in Guangzhou in May next year, before hopefully advancing to the finals in Lyon in January 2019.
Held biennially in Lyon, the prestigious competition is named after the legendary French chef and pits 24 chefs from around the world in a five-hour-35-minute challenge. (Singapore’s best showing was in 1989, when chef William Wai came in third.)
During the Singapore selection in August, chef Ng, a SHATEC graduate who specialises in Western cuisine, emerged first in a cook-off with chefs Petrina Loh of Morsels, Martin Foo of VLV, Russell Misso of Open Farm Community, Daniel Sia of the Lo & Behold Group and Peter Teo of Les Amis. With the win, he takes up the mantel from chef Yew Eng Tong, chef de cuisine at Resorts World Sentosa, who was Singapore’s Bocuse d’Or representative for the past three editions.
Before joining Fairmont Singapore and Swissôtel The Stamford in 2014, the 36-year-old has worked at Raffles Town Club, and The St. Regis Singapore. No stranger to competitions, he has also taken part in meets like the Angliss Discovery Culinary Competition in Hong Kong in 2013, where he won Best Main Course and Overall First Runner-up.
The father of two girls considers winning the Bocuse d’Or Singapore selection the highlight of his year. For 2018, he hopes for a long holiday in Japan, more family time and last but surely not least, to make into the top three spots for the Bocuse d’Or Asia Pacific selections.
In the Bocuse d’Or Singapore selection, I tried to make my dishes stand out. For the first oceanic theme, I created a menu with lighter dishes inspired by aquatic vegetables and seafood, using ingredients such as seaweed, scallops, and oysters. I wanted it to be a refreshing palate cleanser for the judges. For the forest and earth theme, I created heavier, full-bodied dishes using pigeon, mushrooms, celeriac and truffles.
My training for the Bocuse d’Or Asia Pacific selection will intensify between February and April 2018, but I have already started planning the garnishes since September. I am putting in extra hours in the kitchen every day after work and on my days off. Together with my commis chef Carey Wong from Swissôtel’s Equinox restaurant, I am researching and experimenting with different techniques such as marrying local spices with Western ingredients—for instance, using satay spice with smoked chipotle powder and burnt butter.
I am also experimenting with using seaweed to enhance seafood dishes, such as using seaweed spice to replace salt, and using seaweed chimichurri for barbecued items. And I’m excited to try pepper dulse, a rare seaweed that comes in various shades of red. It is dubbed ‘the truffles of the sea’ for its unami, aromatic fungi flavour. I’d love to make a seaweed omelette with roasted seaweed fillings on the inside, and sprinkles of grated deep-fried pepper dulse on the outside.
The best part of being the chef de cuisine of research & development at Fairmont Singapore & Swissotel The Stamford is that I am not attached to a specific outlet. This means that I have more opportunities to experiment with various techniques, ingredients and flavours. I end up being an all-rounder, which allows me to have an open mind, to push culinary boundaries and to create innovative dishes.
For instance, I recently experimented with snow powder as a substitute for corn flour in my deep-fried lobster fritter. It turned out amazing, with a crispier, golden brown crust with slightly sweet flavours on the outside and savoury flavours on the inside.
This was first published in Wine & Dine’s December 2017 issue – The Festive Issue, ‘Chef du Jour’