In a recent mix of Indian, Thai, Spanish and Peruvian cuisine, chef Gaggan Anand - owner of Asia’s Best Restaurant - travelled to cook in Singapore with Daniel Chavez at his Ola Cocina Del Mar restaurant.
The informal events saw both chefs cook up two nine-course dinners for guests who were treated to a real mix of cuisines. Dishes included fresh corn tamales, tiger milk shots and a Donburi Curry - served alongside a range of drinks including pisco based cocktails.
Just after the dinners we managed to catch up with both chefs for an update and to find out more about the exciting dining scene in Singapore. Read more below.
For Gaggan - How is your curry house project developing - can you also tell us about some of the dishes?
"Curry house not yet opened, it’s opening next year - it’s still in the designing stage. The project will serve simple humble comfort food but with vision of Gaggan. Nothing else planned for this year besides I will be cooking in Japan in January for 4 days."
Gaggan - What was it like to cook in Singapore with Daniel?
"Mostly chefs prefer to be part of fine dining restaurants but this year I have decided to cook at restaurants that have great team spirit and serve great comfort soul food.
"Daniel is very similar to us in terms of how he runs his Restaurant and that's where we fit in very well the idea of doing a brunch for 150 people and finally there were 200 was mad, such a big risk and in the end we were supposed to serve total combined 7-8 dishes but we kept cooking and served almost 15.
"We made the people wait to get good food cooked fresh, nothing was prepared and served that made the audience more excited seeing Gaggan and Ola team work as one called GGGola. I hope to cook again with Daniels team they are young fun and rock and roll".
Daniel, can you explain to us more about the philosophy of Ola.
"When we opened OLA in the centre of Marina Bay Financial Centre (MBFC) in 2012, our intention was to create a restaurant with a relaxed atmosphere where customers could take a break from their daily lives and enjoy some good food and wine.
"In the heart of OLA is our open kitchen. Everything else revolves around it.
"We started serving an offering quite similar to most of the Spanish restaurants in town. After 3 years, something important changed in the restaurant. We realised that our guests enjoyed more of a seafood based cuisine than the classic tapas you find in most restaurants. Also, we started offering daily specials off the menu which appealed to our patrons. So that gives us a better chance to do more seasonal cooking.
"If you have to define the nationality of our cuisine. OLA’s cuisine is Spanish as this is where I trained most of my life, yet shortly after the opening we had been serving Peruvian food, specially “ceviche" with increasing popularity in Singapore. Which is great"!
Daniel - What’s the most exciting thing taking place in the Singapore dining scene right now? Exciting trends, restaurants, new ideas? Tell us what’s exciting you about the food in your city.
"I first arrived in Singapore 10 years ago— at that time fine dining was the trend, with mostly French restaurants in the list of top restaurats in Singapore. However, these days one can enjoy great killer restaurants offering a vast variety of cuisines, such as Greek, Thai, Vietnamese, Barbecue, Chinese, all kinds of Japanese, Italian, Spanish, Malay, Oyster Bars, Mexican, Middle Eastern, American, Australian, Peranakan, Indian plus all the great world of Hawker Centers showcasing all the great local food.
"What can be more exciting than this for a chef? I believe this diversity of flavours can be found in very few other cities in the world.
"The other interesting trend around here is the amount of speakeasy cocktail bars in the city, bringing another level of drinking culture to Singapore which always adds excitement F & B in town".
Daniel - What was it like to cook in Singapore with Gaggan?
"I never had so much fun working in my whole life. The synergy was awesome between both teams. First of all because Gaggan and his team from Bangkok are great people and then, because we never approached this opportunity an overly formal event, it made the whole event really cool. The idea was a casual 4 hands collaboration serving flavourful dishes showcasing Peruvian, Spanish, Thai and Indian flavours. It seemed risky at the beginning but it worked perfectly!
"We cooked on Friday for 65 guests which we served 16 course in a degustation menu format; and the very next day a crazy 180 pax brunch party with DJs, lighting system, 20 course tapas style, live stations, cocktails, etc
"Gaggan is a really spontaneous man, so we were playing jokes and making fun trying to transmit that energy. This suits perfectly with our restaurant. We had a great time and that is the most important of all things