Monday, 22 September, 2014

Published August 30, 2014
Live to eat - healthily
Fast food junkies, don't use excuses such as poor cooking skills or a lack of healthy food choices to rationalise your eating habits. A range of options coming onstream could inspire you to put that Ramly burger down for good - or at least for the time being. BT Weekend explores a few of them
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Origins of Food is part of an ambitious plan to roll out a number of food outlets, all under the Institute of Nutrition, that's run and managed by One Farrer Hotel & Spa. The studio (above) with its state of the art technology can be used to hold demonstrations and conduct food-themed events. - PHOTO: YEN MENG JIIN

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Origins of Food

Institute of Nutrition @ One Farrer Park Hotel & Spa

1 Farrer Park Station Road

Tel 6363 0101

IF you're looking for healthier versions of hawker dishes like chicken rice, nasi lemak and laksa, you'll want to sign up for cooking lessons at the Origins of Food - a new cooking studio that aims to teach people how to cook wholesome food.

Origins of Food is housed at the new One Farrer Park Hotel & Spa, and is overseen by Chef Kong Kok Kiong and his team. Although the hotel opens next week, Origins of Food starts only in October. Even so, "We've been working on the recipes for more than a year, since last April - getting the correct weight of ingredients and portions, and coming up with new methods of cooking chicken, like using sous vide," says Chef Kong, who adds that it's great to have the support of dietitians from the upcoming Farrer Park Hospital that's attached to the hotel.

Hotel catering-trained Chef Kong and his colleague Chef Benjamin Goh will also oversee the hospital's food when it opens in November. For the hospital, a 14-day rotational menu has been planned, featuring four types of cuisine - Western, Chinese, Vegetarian, Ethnic. These dishes will also be taught at the Origins of Food's interactive studio space.

"It's been a great process, and what I've learnt is that we can replicate the flavours of local food using wholesome and organic products. It's my first time working with a dietitian," says the 38-year-old who was last at Resorts World and Marina Mandarin's kitchens. "We're essentially serving hotel standard food for the hospital."

There is a consumer demand for healthy food, Chef Kong believes, "But you have to gain their trust in terms of taste. Which is why Origins of Food is also about sourcing for good homemade products," he adds.

Origins of Food is part of an ambitious plan to roll out a number of food outlets, all under the Institute of Nutrition, that's run and managed by One Farrer Hotel & Spa. The hotel opens on Sep 3, while its food outlets - including Origins of Food - will open in October. Because the hotel is in the same complex as the privately-owned Farrer Park Hospital (which opens in November), the hotel also manages the hospital's kitchen.

On the side of the hotel fronting Race Course Road, besides Origins of Food, the Institute of Nutrition will feature Foodie Square with outdoor seating and food cooked fresh on mobile cooking stations (the Electrolux Libero stations are the only ones in use in Asia), then there is LFS (Local, Fresh, Seasonal) for wholesome deli fare (with a space which seats 50 diners), a takeaway and dine-in "virtual" outlet called Owen Road Diner, besides a halal kitchen for the preparation of daily hospital meals once Farrer Park Hospital is operational.

"The hotel's main restaurant Escape and other outlets are in effect like a big central kitchen, and this enables us to reach out beyond hotel guests to the public through different food concepts," explains Richard Helfer, chairman of One Farrer Hotel & Spa.

Brimming over with bright ideas for the hotel's food outlets, Dr Helfer points out that the concepts' viability comes from a captive pool of hotel guests, hospital visitors and the general public, who could be interested in the cooking classes. There is also a team of six chefs who can give demonstrations and conduct food-themed events. "There are a lot of events we can hold in the Origins of Food space, and the studio with its state of the art technology has been built to cater to that," he adds.

The studio can hold up to 30 comfortably, but it also has live-feed cameras hooked up so that a demonstration can be telecast to the hotel's ballroom of more than 300 people.

"We've identified chefs who have the charisma and ability to teach as well so we'll constantly have a pool of teaching chefs around," explains Ho Wan Jiun, manager of the Institute of Nutrition and F&B Events at One Farrer Hotel & Spa.

The whole idea is to make learning how to cook fun and accessible, and in fact, a walk-in programme has been devised in October, for people passing by who can see the action through the glass walls - who can just poke their head in to enquire what's going on.

"For S$50, and if they have an hour and a half to spare, they can learn to make whatever the chef is making and take it home!" says Ms Ho. And the bonus is that the food will be wholesome and nutritious, which is just what the hotel's entire food concept is built upon.

  • One Farrer Hotel & Spa's 24-hour Escape Restaurant will be open next week, but its Institute of Nutrition will open in October.

By Cheah Ui-Hoon

Conscious Cuisine

Tel 9780 1074

YOU'VE heard of a balanced meal. Now take that concept and apply it to Viv Sutanto and Michele Fernyhough's cooking classes.

"We both teach at the same time, with Michelle giving more input on nutrition, while I'm strong on the culinary side," explains Ms Sutanto.

The duo started Conscious Cuisine a year ago, and are both certified Living Food and Holistic Chefs from the US-based Pure Joy Academy. While both of them are raw food practitioners, they teach mostly cooked food classes, since raw food is only just beginning to take root here.

"We find that we need to teach the basic concept of healthy eating and cooking, so we try to make it as simple as possible, focusing on nutritional knowledge, so that people know what they're eating and why," explains Ms Sutanto, who was previously running The Living Cafe at Balanced Living, and also in banking before she gave it up to pursue her passion.

"We're dairy-free, refined-sugar free and also gluten-free. We don't teach recipes using red meat, but hormone-free chicken and fish. While we're not 100 per cent raw food, we encourage people to eat raw foods 50 per cent of the time, for the live nutrients and enzymes."

The whole idea is to show people how easy it is to run a healthy kitchen. "At the same time we want it to taste fabulous!"

Their "Quick Step to Healthy Cooking" is a popular public cooking class they offer at various venues, while they also give a lot of private classes at clients' homes, and write up recipes and meal plans. While both are from Australia, they have been living in Singapore for years now, and Ms Susanto is part-Asian.

"That gives me a good idea of what flavours the locals like. The biggest challenge is with the local crowd. It's hard to convert them from eating out at hawker stalls to making their own healthy lunch box," she says. "Once we show them that it's not going to be tedious or take a long time, then that encourages them."

Raw foods, for the record, isn't just about eating salads and healthy dressings, but also about sprouting seeds, and dehydrating food. "It's important to make it sustainable and not be fanatical about it. But both of us had health issues before, and we went down the raw food route. We got better and felt fantastic, which is why we're so keen to pass on the knowledge now," adds Ms Susanto, who used to have chronic dermatitis.

Right now, her raw food classes are at beginners' level as participants have to familiarise themselves with the ingredients and equipment, while there's a growing demand for cooked healthy food classes.

  • Conscious Cuisine's upcoming events: Quick Start to Healthy Eating (Sept 11 & Oct 21), Conscious Eating (Sep 25), Heal Your Gut - Fermentation workshop (Sep 16), Weight Loss and Healthy Cooking workshop (Oct 2). Email for more details:

By Cheah Ui-Hoon

Asian Raw Pantry

IN the last two years, there's been a greater interest in raw and living foods and cooking, beyond juicing, which is why Adeline Tan, who started LINSmoodees four years ago, teamed up with Vivienne Loh of Whole Life Consultancy, to start classes in Asian-styled living food.

"People have started asking for more besides juicing, so we started the Asian Raw Pantry (ARP) series of classes, for Asian-centric raw food," explains Ms Tan, adding that in raw and living foods, juices are cold-pressed, and dips and sauces are the staples, equivalent to noodles and rice in the Asian diet.

Ms Tan and Ms Loh, who've been building up their own knowledge in the last four years before starting ARP classes, explain that living food is food that's not overly-processed, and cooked between 45-75 degrees celsius, as enzymes are sensitive to temperature. Ms Tan runs the Healing Concierge Studio & Kitchen based at River Valley Point, while Ms Loh also provides craniosacral therapy and vibrational healing, under her Whole Life Consultancy.

"While there are tons of information on the Internet, our classes condenses them, and participants find it easier to learn when they have a hand in making the food," Ms Tan says, adding that it's a major paradigm shift as the average Asian consumer is so used to cooked food.

But Ms Loh has launched a series of raw vegan dips for retail sale, and today, for instance, Ms Tan and Ms Loh will be giving their last class of the year under the Asian Raw Pantry series. In the class, they'll be teaching how to make starter pesto from green fennel and a broth from tomato and Mandarin orange peel. For the semi-raw main course, it will be marinated raw vegetables and fungus with mung bean noodles (which are gluten and dairy-free), all tossed together.

Having moved on to teaching raw food, Ms Tan says that she now gives one-on-one tutorials for green juicing for customers who buy blenders from her. "In our group classes on living foods, Vivienne is the main teacher," she explains. The duo met when Ms Loh went to learn more about juicing from Ms Tan and broached the subject of teaching at the latter's studio.

Ms Loh says that compared to Bali, Thailand and Australia, the awareness of raw and living foods in Singapore is still quite low, but they've seen interest grow in the last two years. "We're getting more enquiries and faster feeedback. For today's class, for example, we were sold out in three weeks," she adds.

  • The Asian Raw Pantry class today is held from 10am-1pm, at the The Healing Concierge, #01-13 Valley Point Shopping Centre, 491 River Valley Road. Tel: 6438 4123. (The class was fully booked at press time.)

By Cheah Ui-Hoon