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Finding the Cure
21 Keong Saik Road
Opens in July
ANDREW Walsh has done his time. After a 16-year "apprenticeship" (as he calls it) working for other chefs and restaurateurs, the 32-year-old is finally starting his own venture - a "fine-dining bistro" named Cure.
"When a chef works at a restaurant, it's not a 9-to-5 thing, it's 16 hours a day. So three and a half years is almost five or six years in total. Of course you would need a change of scenery," says chef Walsh, whose resume includes working for English chef Tom Aikens, and three-and-a-half-years worth of heading Jason Atherton's Spanish tapas restaurant Esquina here in Singapore.
"I suppose I needed a break from Esquina. Every now and then you need to reinvent yourself. You can't keep doing the same thing. And as a chef, I want to challenge myself. It's either go big or go home right?" he adds.
His new 40-seater restaurant, Cure, is slated to open at 21 Keong Saik Road in the first week of July. According to chef Walsh, it will serve food of fine dining standards, except in a casual and relaxed environment. Cure will be open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays, and for dinner from Mondays to Saturdays.
"The name "Cure" means to take care of people... It means hospitality, plus it's very easy to remember," says chef Walsh.
Don't mistake it for a charcuterie that specialises in cured meats though. Cured items may appear on the menu every now and then, but then again, so will other techniques such as smoking, fermentation, and brining. For example, the menu might feature a traditional Irish bacon and cabbage dish made with sourdough bread, bacon butter, and fermented cabbage on top. Ultimately, it's about making everything from scratch.
"I'm trying to go back to the artisanal approach of cooking that we've all kind of forgotten about because we've been messing around with gels and foams for a long time. That means going back to making things like my own sourdough, ricotta, and duck ham," he says.
Cure will serve a set menu of about four courses on weekdays, and this will change almost completely every month depending on the seasonal produce being imported from Europe, especially the chef's hometown in Ireland and the UK.
Chef Walsh's focus on seasonal produce is mostly a tribute to his childhood. He says: "I miss seasons, and I never want to get to a point where I forget about what we have back home. Just because the sun is out doesn't mean I'm not going to serve a grouse and foie gras pie in December with a Christmas souffle. It's part of what I grew up with."
You don't have to worry about him slapping a hefty price tag on his food either, he promises. The idea is to create something accessible, so he intends to charge somewhere within the range of S$90 to S$100 per head for four courses.
On top of that, you might also spot a S$1 charge at the end of your bill, which is part of the chef's new charity project which is currently in its early stages of development. The project is called Hospitality Against Hunger, where Cure will serve some house bread (or snacks, depending on what chef Walsh decides on) and give customers the option of paying S$1 for it.
This dollar can technically be counted towards covering the "free bread", but it will actually be given to a charity called Food Bank to disseminate food to the less fortunate in Singapore. Details are still being worked out at the moment, but chef Walsh's goal is to launch the programme at Cure, and eventually rope some other restaurants as well.
For now however, his main focus is to work towards the vision he has for Cure, and that includes the specific type of atmosphere he desires. He describes it as fine-dining but without the stuffiness of "crazy chandeliers or white tablecloths", plus an increased interaction between him and his diners. This means he will be moving in and out of the kitchen often to say hi to guests and maybe even finish off certain dishes at the table.
Of course that would mean a commitment to being at the restaurant every single day, and limiting his expansion possibilities, but it's something that chef Walsh has no issue with at all.
He says: "Cure is where I want to be cooking. The food is mine, and I want to be there. If you look at all the prominent restaurants in Singapore, the chefs are there. That's why those restaurants are successful. I want to build a place where all my staff are proud to work, and proud of what we do. I want to build an institution, and to do that, you have to be around. So I'm not going anywhere."