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Aces go places
The Club House, Block 8 Jalan Lempeng, #02-02 Park West Condo
Tel 9630 4526. Open Tues to Sun.
8am to 8pm (Cash terms only)
Opens May 19
EVER get to the point in your career where, if you had to choose between the daily stresses of running a busy restaurant and making sausages, you would choose the sausages?
Patrick Heuberger did, and a full year since he sold his shares in the hot eatery Bistro du Sommelier in Armenian Street, he's back - this time with a laundry list of pates, rillettes, sausages, hams and terrines for his brand new business concept Casse-Croute, which marries takeaway and eat-in French fare with an online delivery service.
Casse-Croute will soft open on May 19 at its unassuming premises within a sprawling condo development in the West Coast. Chef Heuberger has taken up space in the clubhouse of the Park West condo, where he has installed both a charcuterie production kitchen and a dine-in space complete with an open kitchen to serve the same kind of traditional French bistro fare that he has become synonymous with.
Only this time, everything he serves in the restaurant is available for takeaway from soups to stews, salads and roasts, with the idea that busy families can have a complete gourmet meal at home without any hassle. The online service will only be launched in June, which is also when he will have the full range of deli items.
It's nothing fancy, but chef Heuberger, 40, couldn't be happier as he's finally found his true calling as a dedicated food artisan devoted to the traditional art of charcuterie.
"Charcuterie is such an interesting trade but it's also a dying one," says the Swiss-born chef who went to France to apprentice at two different family-run Charcuterie Traiteur in Brittany and the Languedoc-Roussillon region for a total of three months.
Although he was already good with charcuterie at Bistro du Sommelier, he's purely self-taught, so he was keen to see how his skills measured up to the "professionals" in France. "Not bad," he laughs when asked how he did. "It was also good to learn some techniques that you might have seen in books but did not understand. And Michel Aninat - the owner who is around my age - he has a very open mind, and he has so much knowledge he wants to share, but not enough young people in France want to learn. So he was very happy to find me, from Singapore, wanting to learn from him!"
Every Tuesday, six whole pig carcasses would arrive at the charcuterie shop and Chef Heuberger and the other 10 employees would work non-stop to carve them up and turn every single bit of the animal into all manner of delicious things. "They were huge, about 150kg per carcass, and specially bred by a farmer in the region." It was there that he learnt how to cook and eat pig's snout, and that's one of the new products he will be selling at his shop once he sorts out his supply of pigs. Chef Heuberger's plan is to import the whole animal - cut into pieces since that is the only way to bring it into the country - and not waste a single piece, just like a true artisan would do.
He explains that even though he was already making charcuterie while he was at Bistro du Sommelier, he became more fascinated with it but didn't have the time to delve fully into it while running the restaurant at the same time.
The manpower crunch, construction work next to the restaurant and the fact that he hadn't had a real break for years and wanted to start a family all added up to convince him to leave to pursue his own passions. If not for his chef de cuisine Brandon Foo wanting to take over the restaurant, he would have closed it completely, he says.
"I started at the age of 15 in a professional kitchen. I worked for 25 years straight with no breaks, no kids. I've succeeded and I'm very happy but what about the next 25 years? I need to upgrade my skills. My Grandmama-style of cooking is okay but I felt I needed to upgrade myself."
He learnt everything he could about making ready-to-eat meals from pasteurisation to packaging, even taking up a course on the latter at the Singapore Polytechnic. He even has ISO 9001 and HACCP SS 590 certification because he is convinced that the ready-to-eat sector is the next growth area for F&B. "It's a natural progression," he believes. "Consumers have less and less time to cook at home. They rely on cooked food but what exists today are either very processed and unhealthy or not well made options."
While he concedes the location is somewhat out of the way for city folk, he has a good catchment area of residents and offices in the West Coast which don't have easy access to the kind of food he offers. Another factor is that he and his wife recently bought an apartment not too far away which makes it easy for him to get to work by bus or bicycle. "I like to say that I am so popular I have gone into hiding," he jokes.
It will certainly be worth the search when he's tempting you with the likes of duck sausage with foie gras and pistachios, pork intestine andouillette, home-made hams, pig's head terrine (and snouts) and pig knuckle terrine. For his dine-in and takeaway menu, expect wholesome dishes such as salads, soups, steak tartare, stuffed deboned chicken and braised rabbit. Pricing is friendly, at S$12 for 180gm of duck rillette to S$20 for braised pork cheeks. From now till the end of the month only a limited menu will be available, but in a couple of weeks' time he will have everything. His online service will also be up and running in time for the June launch.
Of course, the ultimate plan would be to grow the business to more commercial proportions but for now, he's revelling in the chance to call his own shots and unleash his inner artisan. "It's just the way I was born. To practise traditional craft. That's why I feel there is a market for this - people are still looking for this but so few people do it."
By Jaime Ee
Chef de Vito's Bali high
il Lido Bali
Jalan Raya Kerobokan No 38, Banjar Taman,
Kuta 80361 Bali, Indonesia Tel +62 361 731175
55 Market Street
Opens May 18
RESTAURATEUR Beppe de Vito is on a roll.
Last month, he opened il Lido in Bali, bringing his Italian fine-dining restaurant concept from Sentosa to the Indonesian island. On Monday, he will open Osteria Art, inspired by the best osterias in Milan, Rome and Florence. In October, he will open Aura, a multi-concept, multi-faceted dining destination, at the National Gallery no less.
And for the record, he opened Southbridge Oyster Bar last October. That's four new restaurants within a year. It all seems like quite a feat, but Mr de Vito brushes it off. "Of course, it is ambitious, but having an experienced team on board means I can open three places in four months if I need to," he says. What he means is that each new restaurant is run by a team from an older restaurant. "This ensures that on opening night, we're over 90 per cent ready," he says.
Even before its opening, Aura, has already generated much excitement. The restaurant, which will open on Oct 9, will take up two floors of the National Gallery, and comprises four concepts, each an independent experience while complementing one another.
On the fifth floor is The Restaurant, which will seat 104 guests, and features contemporary Italian cuisines from all the regions of Italy. The vibe here is elegant and refined, but relaxed.
Up on the rooftop of the Galley is the Sky Lounge, boasting views of the Padang and Marina Bay skyline, on its outdoor terrace. It also comes with an indoor lounge, which will transform into a Raw Bar in the day, serving up salads, savoury tarts, foccacia and Mediterranean specialities for S$18 per person. There will also be an all-day menu of charcuterie, seafood, oysters, cheeses and pizzas. Later in the day, it will become a Tea Lounge, where high tea is served, also at S$18 per person. At night, the space becomes the Bar, serving up craft cocktails, champagnes, wines and beers to go with the all-day menu.
Mr de Vito got the space after bidding for it. "We studied who would go there. The Gallery is not just for tourists, but for Singaporeans as well. It is a lifestyle destination, and not just a museum," he says. "We are renowned for our Italian concepts, so this will be a chance to bring those concepts to a location with plenty of history and heritage," he says.
Part of the deal is that there can only be one Aura, and he cannot replicate the concept elsewhere. Aura, is a S$4 million investment, which Mr de Vito says he's funding "by selling my home". He plans to be there for 10 years. The kitchen will be headed by the team at il Lido at The Sentosa Golf Club, which will close in August.
Osteria Art, says Mr de Vito, was meant to open last October. But plans had to be put on hold when there was some trouble with the landlord. That meant having to find a new location, which took six months to secure.
Osteria Art will open at 55 Market Street, at the bottom of an office building. "The fine-dining restaurant is surrounded by banks, so this will be more of a place for power lunches, more corporate clients than for family and friends," he says, of the restaurant, which "feels like a gentlemen's club but ladies will be comfortable coming here too".
The menu will showcase Italian classics, such as Suckling Pig Porchetta, and Beef Agnolotti with Truffle and Roast Jus. Prices, Mr de Vito, points out are "valued". Appetisers and pastas will hover in the S$20-plus range, mains in the S$30s, and the suckling pig porchetta at S$98 for two. The kitchen will be headed by Andrea de Paola, who also heads the &Sons kitchen. Mr de Vito says, Osteria Art is not about the chef, but about the product.
"I want people to be able to come back every week, I want the place to be full every day," he says.
il Lido Bali came about when there was an opportunity available. It takes over the iconic location of Kafe Warisan, and the vibe there is a chic and relaxed Italian dining experience, that combines Balinese hospitality with Italian elegance.
The menu, spearheaded by de Vito and Italian chef Luca Masini, is all about authentic and timeless cuisine - familiar classics intricately re-interpreted through complex cooking techniques. The dishes are meant to be shared, such as the Grilled Octopus with Nduja, or the Crab Cakes with Avocado Cream and Bone Marrow Crostini.
"We had our soft launch last month; this month we started operations, and we are now ready for the summer crowd," says Mr de Vito, who stayed in Bali for about two months to understand the market.
"The idea is for people to find out about il Lido in Bali, when they are in Singapore, and vice versa," he says.
Whereas in the past, he worked with partners, such as with Roberto Galetti, for Garibaldi Italian Restaurant and Bar and later with Osvaldo Forlino for Forlino, Mr de Vito now prefers to fly solo, choosing to open restaurants on his own. "I like to act fast," he says. "But I'm always with my team. I'm very hands-on, so my staff always have support."
With partners, "it is good to have someone to stop me from moving too quickly, but I've learnt to sleep over it when something crops up," he says.
Since he only has himself to answer to, it means that Mr de Vito can turn things around quickly, should a concept not work. He cites the example of his English gastropub The Jackson Plan. The eatery wasn't doing well, and within a month, he turned it into the Latteria Mozzarella Bar. "Within three months, we doubled sales," he says.
Without having partners, Mr de Vito says, "there is less explaining to do. I like to lead with a clean leash".
Mr de Vito acknowledges he has made wrong moves before. "Expanding the il Lido brand, but in the wrong way," he says. Several years ago, he opened an il Lido cafeteria in Suntec City, and an iL Lido bar at Changi Airport Terminal 3. Both closed due to poor traffic. "With a brand, you want to bring it up to a higher level, and not bring it down. So if I want to do a new concept, I'll come up with a new brand."
He still has two more restaurants to open this year, but already Mr de Vito is planning to launch new restaurants next year. He declines to share more details, "it is still too early to announce, but definitely exciting stuff".
By Tay Suan Chiang