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Father and Son Chefs
FATHER: SAM LEONG, Chef-Consultant, Forest
SON: JOE LEONG, Pastry Chef, Forest
As a child, Joe Leong couldn’t understand why his father Sam Leong didn’t spend time with the family. “I was upset. I’d asked why was he always away, and why leave for work halfway through dinner,” recalls the 26-yearold pastry chef.
He never thought of following in his footsteps, nor did Chef Leong want him to. “I didn’t want him to suffer,” says the chef-consultant of the restaurant Forest, in Resorts World Sentosa.
But that changed when Joe turned 16. “I was curious, and wanted to know why he put in so much time at work.”
He didn’t enrol in a culinary school because “when I went for interviews at local schools, the dean and others would come out to greet (his father). I felt immense pressure. And I was more of a hands-on kind of person anyway.”
Working with Janice Wong was a reality check, as he saw first hand the hard work that goes beyond the pretty plated desserts. He next went to work in a high volume dessert kitchen with Kenny Kong at RWS. Orders were in the thousands and it was “the best place to practise the basics of classic desserts”. It wasn’t easy, of course.
Chef Leong laughingly remembers how Joe would come home, lie immobile and cry for a massage.
But he didn’t give up. He would work part-time at cafes while serving national service and wasted no time getting a job at Intercontinental Singapore and Tippling Club after his ORD.
Now, he’s happily working at ‘home’ - with his father at Forest, where he combines Cantonese cooking techniques with the delicate art of western desserts. “Desserts don’t necessarily have to be sweet. One of my creations uses a mushroom purée that’s been wok-fried for that wok hei flavour.”
With marriage on the cards, would his future kids follow in his footsteps?
Joe quotes his dad: “We will just go with the flow. I’ll give them the freedom of choice just as my father did.”
When asked what Joe would whip up for Father’s Day, he sheepishly reveals that they would probably be sharing tubs of their guilty pleasure - Haagen Dazs ice cream.
Forest is located at #01-521 & 522, Equarius Hotel Lobby, 16 Sentosa Gateway, Singapore 098133. Tel: +65 6577 7788
FATHER: DAVID LIM, Empress Place Beef Kway Teow
SON: JOHN PAUL LIM, Gubak Kia at Timbre+
John Paul Lim’s outstanding take on Teochew beef kway teow - especially his New-Rou Mian, a mazesoba-inspired dry version - has earned must-try status since opening Gubak Kia at Timbre+ in May.
But more important, he’s made David Lim, his father and second-generation owner of Empress Place Beef Kway Teow, very proud.
Although John Paul had to help out at his father’s stall at a young age, it was never intended for him to continue the family legacy. “I was taught from young that you had to work for what you wanted. John simply had to do the same,” says Mr Lim.
“I was the server, cashier and everything else they needed and then, one day, the 12-year-old me decided to try my hand at making a bowl. And I liked it,” recalls John of what sparked his interest.
“I knew he had talent from the way he cooked,” beams Mr Lim, who admits he rarely gave praise in case it got to John’s head.
After graduating with a Diploma in Communications Management in 2013, he tried his luck in the property and offshore industry to no avail. He eventually sent out a cheeky resume, citing 10 years of ‘experience’ and caught the attention of Wolf Burgers’ co-owners Ho Song En and Serene Chua.
They swiftly offered him a job after trying his beef kway teow and the rest is history. “It felt natural (being in the kitchen),” says John, who further honed his skills at Camp Kilo Charcoal Club.
Now, he roasts a suckling pig his father can’t stop gushing about.
But he wanted more. “I wanted to create a menu that’s protective of my father’s legacy, but, at the same time, reflects what I’ve learned.”
When an friend-cum-investor suggested starting something, he jumped at the chance to open Gubak Kia (beef kid). He got help from his father, who insisted he preserve the essential recipes but left the rest to him. “He is an enterprising fellow and likes to reinvent recipes,” says Mr Lim. No doubt the dish most appropriate for Father’s Day would be John’s Beef Short Ribs Kway Teow; a marriage of his father’s heirloom recipes and his western influences in one bowl.
Gubak Kia is located at 27B, Timbre+, 73 Ayer Rajah Crescent. Empress Place Beef Kway Teow is located at #01-43, Maxwell Food Centre.
FATHER: SIN LEONG, Co-Founder of Red Star Restaurant
SON: PAUL SIN, Course Chair in Baking & Culinary Science at Temasek Polytechnic
Paul Sin’s food journey began at 13 as an apprentice in his father’s kitchen - that was how his family kept him out of trouble on weekends and school vacations. His father is none other than Masterchef Sin Leong, one of the most lauded figures in Singapore’s culinary history. “He was an inspiration and a role model for me becoming a chef. Not only was he hardworking, he was one of the most innovative of businessmen.”
Paul, 58, earned a masters degree in food science and technology overseas and worked in food R&D for a few years when he returned. “I joined my father’s restaurant business (Chef Sin Leong had his own restaurant in Marine Parade) but when he decided to retire, I went into teaching in 2010.” He is now the Course Chair in Baking & Culinary Science with Temasek Polytechnic.
His father, now 92, shows up everyday at Red Star restaurant, which he co-founded as part of the renowned four Heavenly King chefs including Hooi Kok Wah.
If asked to cook a special dish for his dad, what would it be? Steamed Chicken with Minced Ginger. “I would use his favourite fresh kampong chicken drumsticks, marinate them with grated ginger, a little capoor cutch (lesser galangal)powder and some rice wine, then steam it until just cooked. Besides being his favourite meat, the ginger will also promote blood circulation and keep my father warm, according to TCM.” – David Yip