Cooking ayam bakar in a fancy Inka charcoal oven is something Ms Lenny Herdawati Emrin would never have thought of.
And when the third-generation co-owner of nasi padang outlet Warong Nasi Pariaman had the chance to do so at Moosehead Kitchen-Bar in Telok Ayer Street, she was amazed.
What had seemed at first to be an unlikely collaboration resulted in an explosion of flavours.
"The ayam bakar cooked in the Inka oven was really good, and tasted even better than ours. It also cooked much faster," she says in awe. "The next thing I asked was, 'How much is the oven?'"
The Inka, which is made in Britain, uses charcoal rather than electricity or gas. A basic model costs about $10,000.
Warong Nasi Pariaman's ayam bakar is part of a collaborative dish for Moosehead's Gotong Royong 50 (Malay for community spirit). The restaurant will work with the well-known nasi padang restaurant in North Bridge Road and Ah Hwee BBQ Chicken Wings in Changi Village for one night only on Aug 3.
Both were chosen for their multi- generational heritage, as well as their expertise in cooking with charcoal, says Moosehead owner Daniel Ballis, 28.
Third-generation owner of Ah Hwee, Mr Teng Wei Yi, 32, says in a mix of Mandarin and English: "I was surprised that they invited me to do this, but I was also very interested. I've never done something like this before and it is very creative. I like that different cultures are doing something together."
In the competitive food and beverage scene in Singapore, such camaraderie can be hard to find. But some chefs and eating establishments are tapping on their friends in the community to pull together foodie events, instead of trying to outdo one another.
Those whom Life spoke to all agree that they get to learn recipes and techniques from fellow chefs, and are able to give diners something new to try.
Some share the profits from the one-off events, while other host establishments pay a fee to participating chefs.
Moosehead had previously collaborated with yakitori joint Bincho in Tiong Bahru, and Ballis says: "We bounced a lot of ideas off each other and were able to gain a deeper insight into the Japanese kitchen.
"We cooked with ingredients not typically used at Moosehead, such as chicken neck."
Anthony Yeoh, 34, head chef of Cocotte in Dickson Road, also says his collaborations with Middle Eastern restaurant Artichoke in Middle Road have proved beneficial.
The two restaurants did a weekend brunch trolley at Cocotte in April. Then, they did a second partnership last month called Bird-Day, a dinner event at Artichoke where diners could eat as much fried chicken as they wanted.
On the partnership, Artichoke's chef-owner Bjorn Shen, 33, says: "We got along so well that we decided we may be able to open a fried chicken restaurant together some day."
Chef Yeoh says: "It opens up a great chance to exchange ideas, seeing how different kitchens work. Sometimes, it's interesting flavour combinations, other times it's a technique.
"More than anything, it establishes a sense of camaraderie among our colleagues and brings us together. On our own, it's easy to get into a siege mentality in a saturated and competitive industry."
He has another collaboration in the works with small-plates restaurant Morsels, a few streets away from his restaurant. Both sides are still working out the details.
"We picked Morsels partly because of proximity, but also because of its Californian leanings," Yeoh says.
Artichoke's next collaboration is with meat-centric restaurant Meat Smith.
Next Sunday, they will be firing up the grill at Meat Smith in Telok Ayer, showcasing Shen's MiddleEastern inflected food and Meat Smith's smoked meat techniques.
Shen says: "For us, there is pretty much no financial benefit. We'd make more money on a normal night than when we have an event. But interesting events also help with our branding. People will remember us for being a spontaneous and fun brand."
Other monthly foodie partnerships in the pipeline for Meat Smith include a pop-up with Mexican restaurant Super Loco next month, as well as a collaboration with seafood boil restaurant The Cajun Kings at the end of September.
Also working on a makan series is popular zichar restaurant New Ubin Seafood in Sin Ming Industrial Estate.
Earlier this month, it kicked off the Truly Singaporean Makan Session with chef Jeremy Cheok, 29, of Mod-Sin restaurant Slake in Swan Lake Avenue. He cooked dishes such as Norwegian mackerel with spicy tomato and onion chutney; kicap manis pork spare ribs with chye poh potato salad; and pulut hitam risotto stuffed into squid.
The chef has had experience working in other kitchens where he used to organise supper clubs and says: "I feel that the exposure to different environments, people and ideas was a breath of fresh air for both sides.
"I have never worked in a zichar kitchen before and seeing these guys in action was mind-blowing. The sheer amount of food they put out is amazing."
Next month, Shen Tan, 41, who used to run the now-defunct Mod-Sin restaurant The Wok & Barrel in Duxton, will be the guest chef. She has also done pop-up brunches in restaurants such as The Refinery and Artistry.
One highlight dish in the collaboration with New Ubin Seafood will be her take on prawn noodles using Carabinero prawn sashimi and smoked pork jowl.
New Ubin Seafood's head of business development, Mr Alex Pang, 30, says: "The Makan Sessions are a way to add to our guests' overall experience and share with them what we, as Singaporeans, like to eat. It's also a nice way to encourage creativity, passion and appreciation of local flavours.
"We understand that there's a lot of history and nostalgia that led to the chef's resulting passion and we believe you can feel and enjoy it through the dinner."
Diners say such collaborations showcase the best of both culinary worlds.
Event planner Janice Su, 31, attended Artichoke and Cocotte's Bird-Day event with five friends.
She says: "I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but I've dined at both Cocotte and Artichoke before, plus you can't really go wrong with fried chicken. I could see their strengths in the dishes and they complemented each other.
"I'd definitely sign up for more of such events."
Gotong Royong 50
What: In conjunction with the SG50 celebrations, Moosehead Kitchen-Bar's father and son duo Glen and Daniel Ballis are showing their kampung spirit with a one-night-only Gotong Royong 50 (Malay for community spirit) project.
They have roped in Ah Hwee BBQ Chicken Wings from Changi Village and family-run nasi padang stall Warong Nasi Pariaman to produce a collaborative dish ($25++) using the restaurant's Inka charcoal oven.
The dish comprises Ah Hwee's chicken wings, Inka charcoalgrilled sweet corn, Sriracha mayonnaise and grated parmesan; Warong Nasi Pariaman's ayam bakar with Inka charcoal-grilled cauliflower and ayam bakar sauce; and house-made Inka charcoal-baked flat breads. A small selection of dishes from Moosehead's menu will be available. Pork dishes will not be available that day.
Where: Moosehead Kitchen-Bar, 110 Telok Ayer Street
When: Aug 3, from 6.30pm
Info: Call 6636-8055
Sultans of Smoke
What: Artichoke's Middle Eastern food meets Meat Smith's expertise in cooking meat.
After a successful collaboration with chef David Pynt of Burnt Ends, Meat Smith's chef Andrew Baldus will now work with Artichoke's chef Bjorn Shen.
Appetisers include grilled haloumi cheese with smoked tomato, pickled celery and mint; and smoked tongue tacos, crab tzatziki, sumac onions and jalapeno.
For mains, highlights include smoked pork ribs with mechoui rub and coffee date BBQ sauce; and smoked ribeye with shawarma rub. The meal costs $80++ a person, with drinks charged separately.
Where: Meat Smith, 167-169 Telok Ayer Street
When: July 19, from 6.30pm
Info: Call 6221-2262 or e-mail email@example.com
Truly Singaporean Makan Series
What: The second instalment of New Ubin Seafood's foodie series returns next month, with local chef Shen Tan, who used to run the now-defunct Mod-Sin restaurant The Wok & Barrel in Duxton.
While the dishes served will mainly be from her repertoire, she will be doing a take on prawn noodles, using New Ubin Seafood's signature Carabinero prawn sashimi and home-smoked pork jowl.
The stock will be made with the prawn shells, and the noodles will be made by chef Tan and flavoured with dried oysters.
The dinner is priced at $98+ a person and includes a free flow of beer and soft drinks. Diners can bring their own wine and liquor with no corkage charge.
Where: New Ubin Seafood, Block 27 Sin Ming Road (behind Block 26), Sin Ming Industrial Estate Sector A, 01-174
When: Aug 19, from 7.30pm
Info: E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was first published on July 12, 2015.
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