Off to the culinary World Cup

Off to the culinary World Cup

Chef Yew Eng Tong will be taking Singapore to the world culinary stage when he competes in the Asian selection for the prestigous Bocuse d'Or culinary competition in Shanghai next month.

It is the second time he will be representing Singapore in this event. Two years ago, he edged out competitors from nine countries, including Japan and Sri Lanka, to take home the gold in the Asian qualifiers.

The biennial Bocuse d'Or, often dubbed the culinary World Cup, is the most prized competition for individual chefs. The global finals will take place in Lyon, France, in February next year.

To qualify for the finals, the 36-year-old chef de cuisine of Ocean Restaurant by Cat Cora at Resorts World Sentosa (RWS), will need to be ranked in the top five at the upcoming regional round, which takes place on June 26 and 27.

He was ranked 17th in global finals last year.

Indeed, the chef is no stranger to competitions, having been part of Singapore's culinary olympic team for the last five years. He also coaches the team for other championships.

Before joining Ocean Restaurant last year, he was chef de cuisine of contemporary restaurant The Cliff at The Sentosa Resort & Spa.

The hotel has since been renamed The Singapore Resort & Spa Sentosa.

Chef Yew has been preparing for the gruelling 51/2-hour competition since January, practising once a week in a kitchen sponsored by RWS. He increased his sessions to twice a week recently and will be practising three times a week from next week onwards in the lead-up to the Shanghai culinary clash.

He says: "I am very honoured to be able to represent Singapore once again and to have the support of RWS. I also really appreciated the genuine feedback and constructive ideas on technique and presentation from the mentor chefs."

To raise funds for the Asian competition, the chef, together with the Bocuse d'Or Singapore's group of chef mentors, will be hosting a five-course lunch at Bar-Roque Grill this Saturday.

Chefs on the panel include Bruno Menard, 55, former chef of now-defunct three-Michelin-starred French restaurant L'Osier in Tokyo; Frederic Colin, 40, former executive chef of The St Regis Singapore and chef-owner of Brasserie Gavroche and Cafe Gavroche in Tras Street; Julien Royer, 32, chef de cuisine of Jaan at Swissotel The Stamford; and Stephane Istel, chef-partner of Bar-Roque Grill in Tanjong Pagar and former head chef of celebrity chef Daniel Boulud's dB Bistro Moderne at Marina Bay Sands.

The competing team is led by Bocuse d'Or Singapore's president, Christophe Megel, 45, chef and former chief executive of culinary school At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy and founder of strategic food and beverage company A-munition; and team coach Khoo Wee Bin, 46, a private chef who was formerly a senior instructor at At-Sunrice.

On the decision to form a mentorship panel for the competition, Megel says: "A group of chefs is able to bring each of their strengths and experience to the table, including design, flair, technique and presentation. The entire exercise is about showing unity and support within the chef community in Singapore."

He adds that having more voices to give feedback is something that the competitor had to be ready for.

"Eng Tong is more mature and has a very clear idea, having competed previously, of the level and standard of the competition, and what is expected of him," he says.

"He understands what needs to be done and he handles criticism well."

During the Shanghai competition, Yew will need to prepare, together with the help of an assistant, Aaron Wong, 21, a commis chef at Ocean Restaurant, 10 portions of two dishes - a meat dish and a fish dish, each served with three garnishes.

The meat dish will be a Lamb And Sea Duo With Chef's Selection Of Seaweed, while the fish dish, which was finalised at the beginning of this week, will be a Low Temperature-cooked Salmon Loin With Almond Milk Custard.

A roulade of lamb loin and neck marinated with spices such as cumin and coriander will be wrapped in Parma ham and cooked sous vide then glazed in the oven. This will be served with garnishes such as an aubergine, wakame and black daikon dumpling served atop a lamb shoulder cube; and truffle gelee with a small potato ball filled with brie and coated in seasoned seaweed.

The salmon will be served with textures of cauliflower and hazelnut, including cauliflower tempura and a hazelnut biscuit; and a salmon and king crab otah with salted pandan-coconut spheres.

The lamb and salmon dishes will be served at Saturday's lunch.

Other dishes include New Zealand abalone with caviar duo by chefs Istel and Megel; and the 55degree organic egg, with smoked potato, chorizo Iberico and buckwheat by chefs Colin and Royer.

The chefs hope to raise some $25,000, which will go towards funding the Shanghai competition, including paying for flights and ingredients.

Royer says: "I think Eng Tong has been improving each time we taste his food. He takes on board all our comments and it has propelled him to a higher level. Week after week, the food has become sharper and more refined."

He says the chefs brainstorm after each practice session on everything from presentation to cooking methods to seasoning.

Megel adds: "He has improved a lot since he competed in Lyon last year. Right now, he just needs to work on his finesse and the details."

For instance, Yew says the constructive feedback and ideas from the panel have helped him to perfect the technique of cooking salmon, which he says should be done sous vide, between 38 and 43 deg C.

He says: "I knew that to compete at the level, I would have to improve, so feedback is very beneficial to me. I take it positively and constructively."

Book it
The Bocuse D'or Sg Chef's TableĀ 
Where: Bar-Roque Grill, 165 Tanjong Pagar Road Road, 01-00
When: Saturday, 12.30pm
Admission: $1,000 a person, inclusive of wines from Primium Familiae Vini
Info: For reservations, call the restaurant at 6444-9672. Payment by cash or cheque only

This article was first published on May 28, 2014.
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