Make it good at all times

One lesson that La Cuisson chef-owner Kenneth Lin learnt is that the last diner should get service as good as what the first one received.

The 32-year-old found that out the hard way during his nine-month stint at French restaurant db Bistro Moderne in Marina Bay Sands in 2011.

He recalls: "The chef went ballistic when I didn't put the garnish properly on the last dish which left the kitchen for the last diner in the restaurant. He said he doesn't care whether it's the first or last table because you never know who enters the restaurant."

Later, the bachelor even experienced it first-hand in what he will only say is a "reputable restaurant".

"I was the last diner left and it served me a deep-fried potato which was crispy outside but frozen inside," he says. "I didn't kick up a fuss, but I never went back."

The finance graduate went down the culinary road as there were no jobs to be had during the 2007 recession. He got a job selling wine before joining culinary school At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy. He graduated in 2010.

After that, Lin, whose parents are both marine engineers, worked at French restaurant Jaan for four months before moving on to db Bistro Moderne.

In 2011, he opened Le Cuisson, a hawker stall selling French fare in a coffee shop in Queen Street. It later moved to Holland Close before moving again to its current shophouse location in Prinsep Street last August. The restaurant was renamed La Cuisson.

On the change from operating a coffee-shop stall to a restaurant, he says: "We moved because our customers have been saying that our food doesn't fit in a coffee shop. We realised we needed to have proper table service and had been looking for a place since 2012."

Lin runs the kitchen with sous chef Ma Yee Khang, 26, and says that work is a stark contrast from the mayhem of his previous stints.

He says: "With two people, it's much less complicated. At db Bistro Moderne, I could be using seven to nine pans just to make one dish. I would be so relieved when no one ordered it. If the cooks in my station didn't get something right, the head chef would yell at me instead of them."

What are your childhood memories of food?

Going to hawker centres to eat zi char or Chinese restaurants such as TungLok's and Lei Garden. I also remember going to Boon Tong Kee in Balestier. When I was about 10 years old, I got to try caviar as my mother's friend, who was involved in trading in Russia, Iran and Iraq, would buy it back for us. It was cheap in the 1980s. Now, it costs thousands of dollars.

What are your favourite restaurants?

Romeo's Italian Restaurant in Brisbane for authentic hearty Italian food. In Kyoto, I love Sushi Matsumoto and the quality of the produce. The chef knows where every product is from and controls everything, right down to the temperature of the rice.

Where are your supper haunts?

I go to Chong Pang Nasi Lemak in Sembawang Road, Lavender Food Square for pig organ soup and Geylang Lorong 35 for scissor-cut curry rice.

Are you an adventurous diner?

Yes, I've had horse meat and horse sashimi in Japan, and snake meat in Hong Kong. But I draw the line at dogs and cats.

Do you have a sweet tooth?

Yes, I like the Indian dessert gulab jamun, which is made with milk solids. I also like orh nee (Teochew yam paste). When it comes to desserts, I like that there are a lot of textures involved and I get inspired by the construction of these textures.

What's comfort food for you?

Nasi padang and mee rebus, as well as tonkatsu from Tonkichi, which has outlets at Orchard Central and Takashimaya.

What has been your worst kitchen disaster?

At db Bistro Moderne, I dropped the insert for the duck confit and spilled duck fat all over the floor of the freezer. The second the duck fat touched the floor, it hardened immediately. I had to boil a lot of hot water to pour on the floor so I could scrape off the fat. My chef did not find it funny at all.

What was the first dish you cooked?

I had no choice but to cook when I was studying overseas in Brisbane. So I grilled a steak, which was a bit burnt and hard, but I still ate it.

What ingredients do you like to work with?

Meat, especially lamb. I can't live without meat.

What's your must-have kitchen tool?

The immersion circulator to sous vide ingredients. I use it to good effect as it helps speed up the cooking process and preparation work.

What dish best represents you?

Tonkatsu as it is basically pork coated with breadcrumbs and deep fried. It's like my cooking, honest and straightforward. What you order on the menu is what you get.

Describe one unique dish you have made.

Kiwi carpaccio with sous vide pork lard and jamon iberico, topped with dried coconut.

What has been your best dining experience?

At Japanese restaurant Hanamura in Kyoto, where the chef deconstructs dishes while retaining traditional flavours.

If you could invite someone to a meal with you, who would you pick?

French celebrity chef Joel Robuchon, as I'm inspired to be like him. It's likely that I would have joined him if his restaurant at Resorts World Sentosa had opened before db Bistro Moderne. I would take him to dine at Sushi Matsumoto with me.

euniceq@sph.com.sg


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