Variety

Dining with star chefs

KALPANA SUNDER | Updated on: Mar 24, 2011

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It is said that great chefs have star power... have to agree after my experience at the ‘grand opening' of the luxury hotel complex Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. Six celebrity chefs were personally involved in the concepts, menus, and interior design of the hotel's six restaurants. We are here to experience their acclaimed cuisine and get up close with them in their kitchen... and taste an endless succession of amuse bouche (chef's selection in bite-sizes) at a dine-around marathon gourmet dinner. Pizzeria Mozza, db Bistro Moderne, CUT, Santi, Guy Savoy and Waku Ghin made their signature dishes and even went out of their way to please the vegetarians.

With three Michelin stars, Guy Savoy has been voted France's chef of the year. He is among those credited with pioneering ‘Nouvelle French cuisine', a lighter approach to classic French cooking. At his restaurant I greatly enjoy the amazing Artichoke and Black Truffle Soup with Toasted Mushroom Brioche... meat-eating friends rave over the monkfish with shallots. But some diners find the prices too steep: the Degustation menu here is priced S$370!

Waku Ghin showcases the brilliance of Chef Tetsuya Wakuda (famous for his Sydney restaurant). His story is fascinating: he arrived in Sydney with just a suitcase and a love for food at the age of 22. Today, he is one of the world's top chefs and food critics. The unique teppanyaki booths offer diners a private space from which they can watch the skilled chefs preparing the food. At the main dining room you can relax over dessert and coffee, and admire the Singapore skyline. Wakuda's signature starter: ‘like oysters' scallops, so called because he creates the experience of eating oysters using scallops, ginger and rice vinegar olive oil.

Db Bistro Moderne is a melange of French bistro cooking with an American flavour. Chef Daniel Boulud from Lyon, France, has five restaurants in New York. He serves us his signature DB burgers — rare-meat patty accompanied by drizzles of sauerkraut and ketchup, inside a crisp toasted bun; an amazing Butternut Squash Soup with a light sweet taste; and the most interesting ‘floating islands' — a kind of meringue floating on a vanilla custard.

With 14 restaurants and many TV shows, ponytailed Mario Batali has a larger-than-life personality and a unique sense of dressing that includes a penchant for orange crocs! With a double major in Spanish theatre and economics from Rutgers, he is an award-winning author of cookbooks and one of the most respected chefs in America. His Pizzeria Mozza serves us the most luscious thin-crust Pizza Funghi and a white bean bruschetta . With great breads, pastas and salads, this place is sure to be a hit with families.

Wolfgang Puck's famous CUT restaurant features classic steakhouse menus with a large selection of house sauces. Puck has 17 restaurants all over the US and has served Hollywood elite with his famous creations. The restaurant has sleek contemporary interiors with wooden floors and leather chairs.

Finally, we walk into Santi. It is Mediterranean food with the Catalan influences of Chef Santi Santamaria. Author of about ten cookbooks, Santamaria was awarded Spain's National Gastronomy Prize in 2009. He favoured natural ingredients and traditional cooking techniques. This restaurant has won the prestigious Singapore Tatler Best New Restaurant award. Santamaria and his attractive daughter talk to us as we walk through the kitchen tasting some chilled Gazpacho and delicious chocolate Bunyois with cognac. There is also a wooden trolley offering more than 26 kinds of cheese. The meat eaters in our group swear that the Oysters Escabeche tastes divine.

But as we file out of the restaurant there is a commotion: Chef Santi has collapsed on the floor. Emergency services are summoned even as we watch in shocked silence. The next morning we hear that Chef Santi has passed away. “Why do we have a man with all his youth and his passion taken from us? The only thing I could come up with — maybe God got tired of French food and he wanted some real good Spanish food with Catalan cuisine,” said Wolfgang Puck at the media meet the following day…

Published on March 24, 2011
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