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Pushing the limits
FANS of Daniel Sia will need to dine at The Disgruntled Chef restaurants more often from now till mid-October, when the 40-year-old chef leaves the brand he started in 2010.
After six years, "I'm looking at new challenges in my career," says the chef who cut his teeth at Les Amis and then White Rabbit before he struck out on his own with his quirkily named eatery in Dempsey. He was one of the first chefs to introduce the sharing plate concept, which is now commonplace.
In 2013, he sold the restaurant to F&B Asia Ventures (Singapore), a subsidiary of Everstone Capital Partners - a private equity firm.
F&B Asia also owns Harry's International, which in turn owns the lease to The Club, a boutique hotel at Ann Siang Hill. In 2015, the hotel underwent a revamp, and a new, grown-up and glamorous version of The Disgruntled Chef at The Club was created.
His specialities there included a burnt onion charcoal bread with whipped cream cheese dusted with crispy fish floss.
When chef Sia leaves in October, the two restaurants will continue to run their normal operations. There is talk that The Disgruntled Chef at Ann Siang will un- dergo renovations soon, and reopen with a new concept.
Chef Sia will only reveal detailed plans of his next venture in October, but lets on that he will be involved in F&B consultancy work. Meanwhile, he has mixed feeling about giving up his "baby".
"Running a restaurant will always be a roller-coaster ride with ups and downs, or changes in business direction. I'm happy to see that it can continue to run successfully because it was never about the chef - The Disgruntled Chef's tagline is Fine Dining Flipped."
Of course, "I'm a little sad to let it go as it is something very close to my heart, and I am very thankful to the team for the fantastic journey thus far."
RAYMOND Lim may not be a chef but for the longest time, he has been associated with the Les Amis Group as its de facto spokesman, well-known as a man-about-town with a taste for fine clothes and a generous entertainment budget that he would lavish on visiting chefs, media and other personalities.
All that will change at the end of September when the 38-year-old, who started out as a part-timer, leaves the group after almost 20 years. The director of the group's corporate office tendered his resignation early this week, citing a career plateau as one of the reasons for his departure.
"There's not much space to grow beyond what I'm doing now," says Mr Lim. Although the resignation seems sudden, he explains that it wasn't an impulsive decision.
Two months ago, he received a long-service award, "and it suddenly dawned upon me that maybe it's time to start a new chapter in my life."
Just earlier this year, the Les Amis Group announced that its lifestyle F&B consultancy Studio Woods Eatchitecture Pte Ltd - which was a joint venture between the group and Mr Lim - was working on a project in Kuala Lumpur, involving three new restaurants including another Les Amis outlet. According to him, since 60 per cent of Studio Woods is owned by the group, it would be "naturally absorbed into the group" after his departure. The group also has projects in Ho Chi Minh, Yangon, Hong Kong and Jakarta. He will not be involved in any of them.
He has no immediate plans, but says he is fielding F&B-related offers from friends in Hong Kong, Korea and Myanmar. He is also hoping to do some charity work in Myanmar.
As to whether he would find it challenging to go forward without the backing of the Les Amis name and resources, "it would depend eventually on what I decide to do", he says. "If I do something in emerging markets, the name doesn't mean much. I think the greatest challenge is how not to fear failure."
As for whether he will miss the days of wining and dining at the group's expense, he says: "No, the fun part comes from the company, so even though I've left, the company remains so I don't think I have anything to miss."
He adds with a laugh: "But my son is sad that we don't have the staff discounts to enjoy in future."
Dough the right thing Simple Indulgence Patisserie
62 Somme Road, #01-02 Parc Somme
Open from 9am to 7pm daily
WHEN pastry chef Furrene Hoh and her chef pal Joseph Yeo started their casual eatery SPRMRKT four years ago, the emphasis was on simple food done well. One of the cafe's first hits was her bread-and-butter pudding - a simple yet delicious dessert that earned raves from the most serious of foodies.
Since July this year, she's taken that same no-nonsense approach and struck out on her own with Simple Indulgence Patisserie - a fancy-sounding pastry shop but with a mission to offer customers with more natural baked options apart from the multi-coloured rainbow cakes that are so common now.
Suffering from a host of allergies, and armed with an active dislike of artificial food colouring, chef Hoh teamed up with her partner Christine Ng to offer cakes "that taste just as good, but don't have chemicals in them".
Expect cakes such as Matcha Azuki Chiffon made with high-end green tea powder. They take things one step further by refraining from using baking powder in their everyday cakes. Speaking on behalf of chef Hoh, Ms Ng, 51, explains: "People think you have to use baking powder to get a light cake, but it's actually all about the technique. When we make our chiffon cakes, we leave out baking powder and cream of tartare and just beat the meringue to an extra level. The end result is just as well-aerated as a regular cake."
The 400-square-foot space on Somme Road has no seating but operates on a per-order basis. While they do have freshly made chiffon cakes in the bakery, ranging from S$60 to S$80 in price, their main business comes from their customised cakes, which start at S$200 but can go upwards depending on the complexity of the design.
The cakes take at least a couple of weeks to make, as both of them manage the patisserie on their own, with the help of part-time staff. Ms Ng says: "That's actually why we chose not to have seating. We're both very good at making and decorating cakes and pastries and wanted to focus on our strengths."
By Avanti Nim