You can take the chef out of Singapore, but you cannot take Singapore out of the chef.
Singaporean Cherish Finden flies the country's flag high at The Langham, London, where she is executive pastry chef.
Many of her dainty pastries and desserts highlight local flavours such as pandan, coconut, lemongrass and pineapple.
On the telephone from London, she can hardly contain her excitement when speaking about her favourite local desserts such as tau suan (split mung bean soup) with youtiao or fried crullers, pulot hitam (black sticky rice) with coconut milk and tau huay (soya beancurd).
The desserts - along with chicken rice, laksa and Old Chang Kee curry puffs - are on her foodie wishlist when she returns to Singapore next month for the World Gourmet Summit (WGS).
While the WGS Charity Dinner she is participating in is sold out, there are still places available for her hands-on afternoon tea workshop at cooking studio ToTT on April 17.
She is looking forward to showcasing what she calls the "grandmother way of making traditional jam", as well as scones.
The Shatec graduate worked with Mr Peter Knipp, the founder of WGS, at the Raffles Hotel from 1995 to 1997. He used to be the hotel's executive chef.
Lured by the "food paradise" that is London, she moved there in 2000.
"There are so many big names in London such as Gordon Ramsay, the Roux brothers, and they range from classic to avant garde cuisine. I wanted to learn more about Michelin-starred restaurants," says Finden, who declines to reveal her age, and only says that she is "young and lovely forever".
She and her English husband, a financial director, have a 13-year-old daughter.
Certainly, she has come a long way from 15 years ago, when diners were surprised that their tea spread had been prepared by a Singaporean.
In her years there, she has been named the Craft Guild's Pastry Chef of the Year in 2012 and appeared on MasterChef and Junior Bake-off.
At The Langham, the innovative chef is constantly rolling out new creations such as a Bunny sunny side up chocolate Easter eggs.
The hotel's tea room called Palm Court does 100 covers daily from Mondays to Wednesdays. Tea is usually fully booked from Thursdays to Sundays, with five seatings a day.
Classic scones are served, together with a variety of sandwiches and pastries.
She says: "We plan the menu six months in advance. So it's odd to plan for Christmas in the hot summer. I don't have the mood to create for winter."
Finden, who returns to Singapore annually to visit her family, notes that Singaporeans are appreciating desserts and sweets more, compared to when she first left.
So she does not rule out returning should the opportunity arise. But with her creations, the award-winning chef - whose celebrity clientele includes Lady Gaga, Jessie J, Kylie Minogue and Justin Bieber - is also quite a trendsetter in London.
She says: "Many chefs come to see what we do. We set the standard. Being Singaporean, I'm a bit kiasu as well, I always want to be in the front."
This article was first published on March 29, 2015.
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