Les Petits Contes

About life's little observations, which matter. About hilarious situations, which illuminate. About stories which offer immense possibilities, open endings, different interpretations and perspectives.

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A nature lover; sun-worshipper, manic book-collector, dessert-devourer and a magnet for hazards

Monday, December 07, 2009

Your Chicken is very Focused


I had dinner with three friends last Friday, at a yet to be publicised new restaurant at Dempsey.

The food was lovely, and the company pleasant.

But it can get a little ‘’stressful’’, when one of the diners is the Senior VP of Shatec, and the mother of the marketing executive of the restaurant. Having been in the hospitality industry for so many years, and working in an established hospitality training institute, it’s natural that she was very meticulous about service and quality. She constantly gave feedback to her daughter (who joined us for dinner) – from the ugliness of the lampshades, to the untidiness of the side table, to the unsmiling waiters. Of course, she gave very encouraging compliments about the chef and the food too, saying, ‘’the chef has great promise, and the food excellent, we just need to nurture him and publicise him – you don’t need to go to Les Amis or the so called famous ones to be seen and to have good food!’’

The restaurant will be marketed as a fine French-Japanese cuisine, and the chef is a young Japanese lad who had worked in various Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris. He was very unassuming, and a tad shy. At the end of the five-course dinner, Chef H came out to obtain each of our feedback. He nodded in agreement to many of our valid comments, even those not related to his cooking but to do with logistics such as, ‘’yes, I agree with the lampshade, and yes, I am sorry the other two wall lamps are not working, I noticed too…’’

According to Annette, the marketing executive, some other ‘’trial diners’’ like us had given him exactly the opposite feedback, but he took everything in his stride. We found his portion too big (for a five-course meal) and the bread basket too big (wastage). Yet others had complained that the portion was too small. ‘’Those who complained must be Singaporeans,’’ laughed her mother ST, herself a Malaysian.

As we sat there chatting and sipping wine and drinks after dinner, the chef went over to another table next to us to solicit feedback. We could not help eavesdropping. ST had to contain her laughter.

A guy was giving very ‘’serious feedback’’. He sounded like a gourmet or food critic. But one look at how he ate and what he said gave the game away. He was like those wine connoisseur wannabe’s who try to impress with a superficial air of importance and knowledge (ie, bullshit). ‘’No food critic will polish up every morsel at each course,’’ said ST. Nevertheless, he spoke like a professor, and the chef listened attentively.

‘’Your salmon is too complex – I counted there were eight ingredients – they took away from the highlight, which was your very good salmon.’’ He continued, ‘’your chicken on the other hand was very focused, yes, very focused, I like it. And I like your lobster too – it goes very well with tomatoes.’’

‘’I have never heard of a focused chicken, and a creative chef should be given some leeway to play with ingredients, whether there are eight or three of them. And if you say something goes well with tomatoes, you should at least substantiate what you say,’’ ST whispered to me. Clearly the guy must have got on her nerves so much that she could not resist saying such rude things.

A new venture deserves encouragement, especially a brave one. This new resto is a brave venture by several courageous parties – the chef left glamourous Paris to start a new career here, the investor is an established homegrown business known more for events catering rather than fine dining, and the marketing executive is a fresh graduate majoring in film studies.

But they all have passion, dedication and lots of positive attitude. They have been working relentlessly and extreme long hours to get this project started. In fact, Annette was so tired after dinner that she fell asleep in the car. And she had to go back to work the next day, a Saturday.

I am sure they will give all the Les Amis and Iggy’s of Singapore a run for your money.

Just stay as focused as the chicken.

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