Singaporean chef makes Asian classics his own

Tue Sep 1, 2009 4:36am EDT
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By Miral Fahmy

SINGAPORE (Reuters Life!) - Reinventing classic Asian dishes is a daunting task, but for Singaporean chef Muhammad Haikal Johari, it was a matter of tweaking the ingredients.

Johari, 32, this month won "The Perfect Meal," a TV cooking competition show sponsored by global appliance maker Miele in which 6 top-rated chefs were judged on their ability to make staples Singaporean foods their own.

Singapore's cuisine is unique, reflecting the island's diverse history and ethnicities and combining Indian, Malay, Chinese and European, influences. The city-state also hosts one of the world's biggest global gourmet food and wine festivals.

Johari, who describes himself as a "kampung," or countryside, boy, has been cooking for the past decade.

He graduated from a prestigious hospitality school, training at the famous colonial Raffles Hotel and then going on to working at a variety of popular high-end eateries. He has also worked with world chefs such as Joel Robuchon, Todd English and Laurent Gras.

Johari, head chef at Bangkok restaurant Ember, spoke to Reuters about cooking European with Asian touches and how much he loves butter:

Q: What prompted you to enter the cooking contest?

A: "I've been in the restaurant business for a while now, so I thought this would be fun. It was a nice chance to play around, get off the routine. And I like to experiment in the kitchen."   Continued...