Dine with SSO violinist

Violinist Lynnette Seah is known for her beautiful playing, but not many know that the co-concertmaster of the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) is also an accomplished cook.

Members of the public can now sign up for private dinners at her home in Tiong Bahru.

The Cultural Medallion recipient, 57, set up Lynnette's Kitchen in November last year. She did so under the Housing Development Board's Home-based Small Scale Business Scheme.

It allows residents to run home-based businesses such as hairdressing, baking and giving private tuition.

Lynnette's Kitchen has a menu of 18 dishes, spanning Peranakan, Italian and French cuisines.

Popular ones are beef rendang, simmered in spices such as galangal, candlenut and lemongrass for three days; ayam buah keluak or stewed chicken with Indonesian black nut; and roast leg of lamb perfumed with Dijon mustard, garlic and rosemary.

Another highlight is tiramisu, which has Belgian cocoa sponge cake infused with a blend of Bailey's Irish Cream liqueur, rum and espresso.

Seah has hosted about 10 dinners in her five-room HDB flat. These dinners need a minimum of eight diners and can take up to 10.

A seven-course Peranakan meal starts at $100 a person and a four-course Western meal at $120. Diners can go to lynnetteskitchen. com to make reservations at least four days in advance.

Lynnette's Kitchen is an extension of the post-concert dinners and barbecue parties that she has thrown for her family and friends for more than 20 years.

"It is known in the SSO that if Lynnette invites you to a dinner party, you just drop everything and go," she says with a laugh.

It is evident that she hosts home parties regularly, with tea cups, decanters and wine glasses filling up the display shelves in her living room.

By throwing private dinners, she hopes to broaden her social circle.

"Performers have secluded lifestyles. You go for rehearsals for long hours and do not get a chance to meet the audience after performing, so sharing a meal is a more enjoyable way of meeting new friends than going to some party," she says.

Cooking is also a way for her to de-stress from her job at the SSO.

She is "constantly on the edge of her seat" as she needs to ensure that every note from the string section is perfect. She also leads up to 15 SSO concerts a year.

She says: "Performing requires high mental concentration to ensure that each of the 28,000 music notes in a symphony piece is played perfectly, so cooking is my happy thing to look forward to after that.

"I find it rewarding to watch people enjoy my food. They go "ooh and ah" and become very quiet, before complimenting the food."

She says she may strike up a tune on her 1750 Gabrielli violin from Italy during these dinners.

She picked up Peranakan cooking because her interest was piqued by her aunts, who whipped up Nonya delights such as ayam buah keluak.

Over the past 15 years, she has mastered and made tweaks to the recipes from The New Mrs Lee's Cookbook, which was adapted from the 1974 classic by the late Mrs Lee Chin Koon, the mother of the late founding prime minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Seah picked up the other cuisines from her student days in Germany, Sweden and the United Kingdom. She relies on her "taste memory" to replicate what she has tried on overseas trips.

She juggles her time between rehearsals with the SSO up to five days a week, conducting violin lessons and cooking. She cooks the dishes with the help of her domestic helper, Emmy, who buys the ingredients from Tiong Bahru Market and prepares them.

Seah hosts one dinner a week. However, she can host up to three a week during her three months off from the SSO each year.

The divorcee, who has two sons - Maurice, 31, a lawyer, and Andre, 30, an information technology undergraduate - hopes to open her own cafe or head a restaurant one day.

"My dream is to become an executive chef. If someone can open a restaurant for me, I will be happy to change my life calling," she says. "Food and music nourish and uplift the soul. I am glad that I have the best of both worlds."


For more information, go to lynnetteskitchen.com

This article was first published on July 05, 2015.
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