With celebrity chefs Sam and Forest Leong as parents, one could say F&B is in Joe Leong’s DNA. The up-and-coming pastry chef now works alongside his parents at Forest森 restaurant.
The 25-year-old pastry chef decided after his ‘O’ Levels that he wanted to be a chef, and swiftly started gaining kitchen experience, specialising in desserts. He spent the past seven years working in pastry kitchens in 2am: Dessert Bar, Swissôtel the Stamford and Fairmont Singapore, Tippling Club and Resorts World Sentosa. In his new role as junior sous chef at Forest森 restaurant, he hopes to hone his skills for modern Asian desserts, incorporating elements of traditional flavours of Chinese cuisine.
Growing up, I loved music as well, but my interest in cooking was stronger. After school, the first thing I did after reaching home was to go to the kitchen where my grandmother or mum would be cooking. I would just hang around watching them and they would ask me to taste their cooking! When I was about 15, I told my dad that I wanted to be a chef like him. He was very reluctant at first, saying it was a challenging profession both physically and mentally. But after a while he opened up to me and guided me on my journey. I can’t really remember how old I was then, but I made my very first dessert together with my mum. It was a tiramisu.
When I witnessed my parents working long hours, I wasn’t deterred, but rather inspired. When I was little, I did wonder how other families celebrated special occasions together. But I slowly realised that my parents dedicated so much time and effort to the kitchen because of their passion for food. To make up for it, my dad often brought us to his workplace to have a meal so that he could spend some precious time with us.
I absolutely love working with chocolate. When I first started at 2am: Dessert Bar by Janice Wong, chef Derrick Wong taught me the basics. You have to be patient and put in your heart when working with chocolate.
For the past seven years, I tried to learn as much as I could from all my mentors as I jumped straight into the industry without going to culinary school. I am currently focused on improving my skills and staying abreast on dessert trends.
Aside from my parents, my culinary heroes are definitely my mentors and colleagues who have guided me and struggled along the way with me. They are like family to me. Without them, I would not be who I am today
When my dad broached the idea about joining Forest森, I was curious because I hadn’t really been exposed to Chinese cuisine. That intrigued and motivated me to try something new.
The flavours of Chinese desserts are amazing, so I do not want to change that. Instead, I would like to use techniques I have learnt to create a selection of Chinese desserts based on traditional ingredients. For instance, black sesame soup is a familiar Chinese dessert that is traditionally served hot in a bowl. I have incorporated hot and cold and different textures of black sesame to bring something new to a familiar flavour. Called Textures of Black Sesame, it is a combination of a black sesame lava cake, dehydrated black sesame crumble, ice cream and paste.
I like to focus things one at a time so my current plan is to assist my dad and the Forest森 team to create an excellent and memorable dining experience for our guests. At the same time, I want to gain more exposure to the Chinese cuisine. I also dream that one day in the future, I will be able to lead and mentor a team of chefs and impart my culinary knowledge.
Forest森, Resorts World Sentosa, Equarius Hotel Level 1, 8 Sentosa Gateway. Tel: 6577 6688