Chefs in black

You often see them dressed in white, behind the kitchen counter putting food on our plates.

So it's almost hard to recognise four of Singapore's most prominent restaurant names out of their chef's jackets and donning snazzy suits as poster boys for the Sarment Icons 2015 Cookbook Calendar.

The calendar features a total of 12 chefs, four of which are from Singapore -Julien Royer of Swissotel The Stamford's JAAN, Frederic Colin of Brasserie Gavroche, Ryan Clift of Tippling Club, and Tetsuya Wakuda of Waku Ghin.

Other chefs included Paul Pairet, Ugo Rinaldo, Jason Oakley and Nicolas Le Bec from Shanghai, as well as Jowett Yu, Olivier Elzer, Roland Schuller and Mango Tsang from Hong Kong.

Of the photoshoot, Chef Clift says: "It was very fun, very cool. We felt a bit special,like a model for the day - instead ofwearing our chef's jackets."

They were dressed exclusively by Ermenegildo Zegna.

The cookbook calendar, priced at S$48 and available for sale at Brasserie Gavroche,contains 60 recipes from these 12 chefs.

This is the second edition; the first was printed last year featuring 12 chefs from Hong Kong.

"The project was initiated because we wanted to make a statement," says Quentin Chiarugi, managing director of wine distributor Sarment Singapore.

"Sommeliers always work with chefs,so we had to find a way to get close to them and show our clients that wine is something that you pair with food. And the best way for that is to get the chefs to become our ambassadors," he explains.

For both Chefs Clift and Royer, the project provided an opportunity to show off some good quality ingredients using what they call "simple recipes".

Describes Chef Royer: "My menu is constantly evolving and changing. So when they asked me for recipes I just used what we were doing at that period of time. But it's always the same idea - it's just working with a product that we think is good, try to do justice to it, and cook it in our own way. Technically speaking, it's very simple, anybody can cook it."

Chef Royer's dishes include a hay-roasted pigeon, beetroot collection, choconuts,and hand-picked scallop 'au natural',while Chef Clift included recipes for his kahoda, razor clams, celeriac crab, and wagyu with umami textures, horseradish burrata.

While some of the specific ingredients might be hard to find in Singapore, Chef Royer says it's possible to substitute them with similar high quality ingredients that are more widely available.

For example, since fresh scallops are not commonly sold in supermarkets, he suggests substituting them with frozen Hokkaido scallops from Japan.

"It's going to be frozen scallops so you won't have the same freshness and same result. But there are some that are very good. You can do it with that," he says.

Chef Colin, on the other hand, had a somewhat different idea. He picked the month of December so he could showcase relevant seasonal products such a spike fish and grouse.

His recipes include a pate en croute, foie gras and "black diamonds", pike quenelles, "Brittany" lobster and bisque, poularde en demi-deuil and spelt cassoulet, and grouse and duck Pithiviers with autumn roasted fruits.

As for Chef Wakuda, his recipes include his slow-cooked ocean trout with aonori, warm salad of bamboo clam with garlic cream, and marinated shrimp, sea urchin and Oscietra caviar.

While they were more than happy to be under the spotlight and enjoyed their experience with the cookbook calendar, the chefs maintain that there is always a downside to all the active involvement - it keeps them away from the kitchen.

Says Chef Royer: "Of course it's nice to have this kind of exposure...But at the end of the day, you'd better be good at what you do and you'd better be in your kitchen because people are coming for you."

Adds Chef Colin: "My grandfather was a chef some 60 years ago, and at that time when you were a chef you were pretty much like a worker. Now chefs have become like celebrities, but we cannot forget where we come from - we still have to work in a kitchen, and cook for our guests. They are the ones paying the bill at the end."

This article was first published on January 17, 2015.
Get The Business Times for more stories.