How this young Singaporean chef became a world-class caterer

PHOTO: AsiaOne

Early this year, thousands of kilometres away from home, two chefs were in Lyon, France, bearing the Singapore flag on badges pinned onto their coats as they prepared four dishes that had been painstakingly perfected over the course of a year.

Chefs Brandon Foo, 31, and Patrick Heuberger, 42, were representing Singapore at the prestigious International Catering Cup, which is regarded in the culinary world as the catering Olympics.

It was the first time Singapore was being represented at the Cup.

They were pitted against eleven other teams from around the world, but against all odds managed to claim the bronze medal and prize money of €2,000 (S$3,095).

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The journey was not all smooth-sailing, though.

At a media tasting of the four dishes that the chefs prepared for the Cup, Chef Brandon shared that on the first day of the two-day competition, he dropped the cake, which was placed in the walk-in freezer. By that time, they had run out of ingredients - all teams are provided a standard amount of ingredients, no more and no less.

With the mousse of the cake ruined, Chef Brandon remained calm, and instead told the organiser that the team did not intend on letting this set them back from participating in the competition.

Impressed by his attitude, the organiser agreed to provide them with more ingredients, allowing them to finish their dessert perfectly.

Such a display of level-headedness in the face of immense pressure is a reflection of the amount of grit, tenacity and passion that the Singaporean chef has for his craft.

The Bronze trophy awarded to the Singapore team at the International Catering Cup 2017.Photo: AsiaOne

Chef Brandon told AsiaOne that he was interested in cooking from a young age. Cooking shows fascinated him, and his mother taught him his kitchen basics when he was 10.

Citing his mother and his uncle as his inspirations in the kitchen, he decided to pursue his passion for the culinary arts by becoming a kitchen trainee after he completed his National Service.

While never formally trained, Chef Brandon worked under several world-class chefs from different restaurants and kitchens internationally. Over the past 11 years, he climbed his way through the ranks - he is today the chef de cuisine of French restaurant Le Bistrot de Sommelier in Armenian Street.

Besides now holding the title of 'third-best caterer in the world' following his win at the Cup, he was in 2014 awarded the title of Meat & Livestock Rising Chef of the Year at the World Gourmet Summit's Awards of Excellence.

Singapore bags third prize at International Catering Cup 2017

Yet with all these awards under his belt, he remains steadfast on his core culinary values.

A good caterer, he says, is a well-rounded one who can prepare every course in a meal.

"As a caterer, you need to be able to cook, deliver and serve," he says.

Besides being organised and meticulous in the preparation of dishes, he emphasises multiple times throughout the interview that the quality of ingredients used by caterers is of utmost importance to making a good dish.

There's no shortcut in cooking.

- Chef Brandon Foo

Quality is something that Chef Brandon prides himself on delivering - he lets on that he has sent ingredients back to the suppliers for not being fresh, instead of using them in his cooking.

This also means no cutting of corners. When asked for a cooking hack to share with our readers, he mulls over the question for a while, before saying, "A cooking hack is something like a shortcut, right? There's no shortcut in cooking. I always tell my staff that they should never try to find a shortcut."

As someone who doggedly worked his way up from the bottom, it comes as no surprise that Chef Brandon is a staunch stalwart of hard work in the kitchen.

To aspiring chefs, he had one piece of advice: "Stop dreaming big, and get your a** cracking. Being a chef is hard work, and requires a lot of sacrifice."