Saturday, 19 April, 2014

Published December 07, 2013
For foodies, with love
Too many gifts to buy and not sure where to start? Debbie Yong and Rachel Loi pick the brains of leading F&B professionals on their strategies for Christmas shopping and what they'll be giving foodie friends this year.
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Le Creuset Round French Oven 20-inch cast iron, usual price $473 from Robinsons Orchard.

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Jeremy Nguee

Chef and owner of catering service

Preparazzi and Rakusaba, a pop-up ramen bar at The U Factory in Gillman Barracks

"I usually keep a look out for things throughout the year. If I see something nice or interesting, I'll just pick it up first. I may or may not have someone in mind for the items.

They're usually limited edition pieces, like the Saut Hermes bracelet with trinkets, or ceramics for tea or shochu - you can't ever have enough sake cups.

I love shopping overseas, popping into small boutiques featuring small independent businesses that carry items you can't buy elsewhere. Outlet malls are also another great place to pick up an entire year's worth of shopping.

I usually shop for the usual suspects: my family, close friends, my wife, and people whose birthdays I usually forget. For each person, there's usually a theme I follow through the years as if I'm helping them build a collection, or a new wardrobe. For the wife, it's usually a bundle of small gifts - a mixture of things she'd like to get and things I'd like for her to have. Nothing too big or fancy, just a few things to say "I was thinking of you."

For one of the first Christmases while we were dating, my wife (then girlfriend) bought me a complete painting set which she assembled herself. It was so special and meaningful as if she knew that secret artistic side of me. Painting together was a great couple activity too.

I think gifts should reflect what you'd like for the other person, not something you think the other person should like. I love receiving gifts that have thought put into it, it could be self-made or just showed that the giver thought about the person that I really am, not the persona that everyone knows.

There was a time when I worked as a photographer, all I got were photo albums. What a bore.

This year, I'd recommend Franc Franc for its wonderful collection of ceramics that are both decorative and functional. The Monocle Shop at the U Factory pop-up also has many beautiful things, such as small leather goods as well as small works by Singapore artists in the Creative Cultures section. I also like giving kitchenware from Le Creuset and utensils from WMF, and Sam Leong's cookbooks - I've given away more than 20 copies of them over the years.

Christopher Christie

Executive chef, Marina Bay Sands

"Just like in a professional kitchen, functionality is key to a proper home kitchen. I like to give appliances as gifts as people tend to trust a chef's knowledge on their quality. I've previously given friends coffee makers, panini grills - everyone loves a proper grilled sandwich at home - a Kitchen Aid mixer, and decorative canisters. I've also even given a set of pots and pans to someone, but you need to be sure they will actually cook with them or it's a waste. While kitchen utensils make good gifts, I never give knives as a gift. I'm always afraid someone might cut themselves with the knife I gave them and then I'd feel guilty. Choosing a good knife is personal to me.

I approach my Christmas shopping like I cook - with lots of planning and thinking and then an efficient execution. I am normally really pressed for time so I tend to do most of the shopping at the last minute in stores. Generally, I've given a lot of thought into what I will get and when the time comes, I know where to find it. It's quick and easy.

Who I shop for and what kind of gifts I buy for them changes every year. I don't tend to repeat gifts or keep to a similar pattern of giving. Of course for children, the gift should be practical and educational, such as a good book or a puzzle. It should be something that makes them think.

The most memorable gift I had ever received was a card with words that meant more than any material gift could. I still keep that card till today.

What I don't like receiving is clothes or jewellery as I am very particular with these items. I would much rather choose these items on my own than have someone get me something I don't like or wouldn't use.

Last year I published my novel and I gave a lot of my friends and family a copy of the book. It meant a lot for me to be able to share the story with them.

Over the years, I've given homemade goodies such as the stollen and pate. It's nice to be invited to someone's home and to bring along a homemade culinary creation. It adds a personal touch."

Maranda Barnes

Co-founder and director of communications and business development, TWG Tea

"I usually collect presents all year long. Every time I find a unique item that one of my friends or loved ones would appreciate, I keep it until the next time I see them.

Since the creation of TWG Tea five years ago, I always send tea to all my friends for Christmas - in fact, it has become something they look forward to. This year it will be the Magic Christmas Tea, a blend of my favourite ingredients - yuzu and dark chocolate - in a beautiful packaging. But many of my friends send requests for a specific tea even before I start my Christmas shopping, so they will receive just the blend that they like.

My husband, Taha already has a very distinctive style, and usually takes care of his own apparel and watches. So if I am overseas and get the time to visit some flea markets or antique stores, I try to search for vintage tea tins or teapots, anything that has a unique personality and charm that he would appreciate. Otherwise, since he travels nine months out of the year, travel accessories are always a useful gift.

  Christmas is a very important holiday to me and I love the warmth and joy of the festive season. The best gift I could ever receive is to have a celebratory holiday meal with my family. This year I plan to cook a wild organic turkey, as we are expecting some friends to join us for dinner.

I love all the gifts I receive, since the thought is more important than the present itself. As I am surrounded with everything I could possibly want - a beautiful family, friends, a job I love, and a home I chose and decorated myself - I prefer small gifts that were chosen for me, which I can keep for years, as opposed to gifts that I would need to use or consume and then discard. I guess I am very sentimental in that way."

Tan Yong Hua

Chef-owner, Restaurant Home

"It's become a tradition for me to work on Christmas - but this will be the first Christmas for my son Aston so I will make the effort to spend time with him and my wife, Sandra.

On a weeknight close to Christmas, we will invite some close friends and family over for a home-cooked meal. But while other families have turkey, we always have Peking duck. My friends associate it with me so I can't run away from it. I try to give it a Western twist by serving it with bacon and portobello mushrooms. We'll then end with a log-cake made by my wife.

I've also decided to do a Christmas countdown celebration with my staff after dinner service on Christmas Eve to thank them for their hard work in our first year together. My wife will come over to pass them some presents. I usually leave all the Christmas shopping to her - I am not the shopping kind.

My wife loves travelling and shopping so for Christmas, I am going to give her a Chef Tan-issued-voucher, which she can redeem for a holiday. But it comes with one condition - it can only be used after Chinese New Year as we have a lot lined up at the restaurant for the new year. This is my way of pacifying her as we work hard during this intense period.

I like receiving presents from friends and families, but when a customer gives me a present it never fails to bring a smile to my face. That's when I feel that they are no longer customers but friends. I have received unique gifts from my customer-friends, such as a rare bottle of tequila from Mexico with a very unique leather cover, shark's fin and exquisite Chinese teas.

I've always believed that one should not give for the sake of giving - if you want to give a gift, put some thought into it. If I'm giving a gift to a fellow chef, I might consider a customised chef's jacket rather than kitchen equipment. Unlike Western chefs, Chinese chefs don't have a lot of 'designer' cooking equipment, so I won't be making another chef's day if I give him another wok.

All chefs, and even friends who are homecooks, love showcasing their work so it could be a good idea to get them a food-photography package. The professionally taken shots help to preserve those memories long after their food has been eaten - and I'm sure these food shots will be a hit on Facebook.