Another F&B Story: The Final Course


Global Advisory Chef F&B

Food, to some of us, is a form a mere sustenance; a necessity to keep us alive, fuel to keep us going. But to others—the ones who live to eat, to whom the enjoyment of food is as crucial as its practical function—food is an exciting journey of the senses, something to lust after, to rave about to anyone who cares to listen.

But behind every perfectly plated dish and gently smiling general manager, every hastily shovelled plate of aromatic char kway teow and harassed-looking hawker, lie stories that we might be unaware of. The ghosts of Covid past still haunt many of these businesses, now also having to confront rising rental prices, and a shortage of manpower. Truth be told, as much as we love to eat, few of us are cut out for the industry, intimidated by the long, unpredictable hours, or back-breaking labour that are commonly associated with the work.

It’s a tough gig, indeed—so why are there still an impassioned few who keep doing what they do? With this series, we not only want to explore just that, but also go off-menu to explore the facets of the F&B industry that remain a rarely-chartered territory.

Here, we’re serving up a story of a man who is, essentially, the Swiss army knife of F&B. Professionally and affectionally known as Chef Steven, he’s a Global Advisory Chef who’s had a hand in shaping many kitchens and chefs around the world. His specialty? Pastry, though his hands touch far more than just flour and sugar. Naturally, a kitchen is where Steven spends most of his waking hours, and this is where we met him—in a little space located in Cross Street, reminding us of Ariel’s grotto, filled with curious tools, appliances, and equipment that would surely fill any aspiring home baker with envy.

Steven wasted no time in getting us all acquainted with his work, sparing no detail as he got into the nitty gritty of the industry. We listened and watched as he began baking up a storm, opting for a classic Strawberry Shortcake and a decadent chocolate tart topped with saffron crème brûlée to showcase his prowess. Entranced by the whizzing of mixers and occasional cling-clang of metal bowls, we soon learnt that Steven had experienced perpetually every role possible in this field.



To grasp the full scope Steven’s current endeavours, however, we have go back to the very beginning. While skilfully whipping up cream and piping them onto beautiful layers of Genoise sponge, he took us on a walk down the path that has led him to where he is today, which we found to be full of twists and turns. But one question lingered in our minds—why pastry?

“That’s a question I used to ponder over a lot,” he chuckles. We were taken aback, to say the least, when we learnt that he actually hated the thought of being a pastry chef at the start. Baking was his Achilles heel back in culinary school, so when he found out he was stationed at the pastry kitchen during his internship at a hotel restaurant in Penang, where he’s from, he was less than pleased. The promise of a one-month-stint turned to many more months, but slowly, his misery whittled away. He eventually fell in love with the complexities of pastry-making and well, as they say, the rest is history.

“Pastry chefs have the added challenge of enticing diners to keep eating even after the appetisers and main courses have been served,” he shares. “It’s not just about the taste; there’s a lot of art and science that goes into making a dessert—the perfect conclusion to any meal. That’s the challenge that I really crave, and what confirmed to me that pastry is where I belong.”


With his newfound love, he crossed the Causeway into Singapore after his graduation in pursuit of better job opportunities. His hard work and dedication led him to coveted head chef positions at various premium hotels, while also taking time to travel to Europe to refine his skills when he could. He even pushed himself to represent Singapore at the prestigious World Pastry Cup, or the Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie, and although his team didn’t earn any laurels, he and a few of his peers rallied to form the Singapore Pastry Alliance in hopes of sparking more pastry representation, both in the country and the region. As a young and ambitious pastry chef, he harboured dreams of working at various pastry capitals in Europe but, as fate would have it, his wife had a bun in the oven, so they decided to settle down in Singapore—a decision he was happy to make.

But as time wore on, he felt the burnout from gruelling hours and labour in the hotel business, and having the itch to start something of his own, Steven went on to open Centre Ps, a little pâtisserie in Tiong Bahru—and later Joo Chiat—where he created one-of-a-kind desserts, even customising cakes for prominent figures such as the late President S. R. Nathan, singer-songwriter Stefanie Sun, and other local celebrities. With more control over his time, it was then that Steven dipped his toes into consultancy, advising and creating recipes for big corporations like Häagen-Dazs.

After six years, he ceased the operation of his shop to solely focus on pastry making; as he puts, he’s no businessman. His efforts all those years, however, unknowingly made him sought after by headhunters, one of which propositioned him to spearhead SHATEC’s pastry and baking diploma programme, where he gained a deeper appreciation for education and mentorship. After a few years, he was fortuitously offered his current role as a consultant chef in a dairy company.


When we first asked him to summarise what his work entails, his answer was plain and simple: “Pastry, pastry, and pastry.” He laughs as the oven chimed cheerily, signalling the doneness of the chocolate tart, which he pulls out and places straight into the blast freezer to cool, before continuing his story, “I work under Anchor Food Professionals, the Foodservice arm of New Zealand dairy co-operative, Fonterra,” he explains. “Simply put, I lead the implementation of chef-led solutions and business approaches in pastry and bakery channels, worldwide, to help food providers drive growth.”

In other words, he’s the go-to guy for all pastry-, dairy-, and chef-related solutions in his clients’ businesses. Part of his job involves him spending hours on market research, testing, and new product development, to ensure that the products can perform well not only in homes, but also in industrial kitchens and production factories. Thereafter, he comes up with models or frameworks for other Fonterra chefs both locally and globally, and chefs of clients, to ensure that they know how to apply these products to their specific markets and businesses.

“That’s just a short summary of my job, otherwise we’d be here all day!” he exclaims, “There are many more areas, such as marketing, recruiting, and judging, that I’m a part of. Even friends in the F&B industry still ask me from time to time what it is exactly that I do at work.”

His dedication in excelling at all his roles is inspiring. To him, food service is what he really enjoys—he isn’t just selling products but expertise. “It’s very fulfilling knowing that I can provide solutions—be it troubleshooting backend production or menu ideation—for my customers, many of whom have become good friends,” he remarks.


As Steven prepares his workstation for the assembly of the chocolate tart, he reflects on his journey. “I’d say I have a bigger impact on the industry now than I ever had before. Previously, whatever I did only influenced one entity itself, be it in a hotel or when running my own business. But now, as a global chef, my work impacts people, including over 70 Fonterra chefs, and markets across the globe.”

In his own time, he stays involved in the pastry scene as a founding member of the Singapore Pastry Alliance and a World Chefs certified judge, to nurture young talents and bring Singapore’s pastry scene to the next level.

“My dream is to see a Singaporean World Pastry Champion one day. We all know Cédric Grolet, right, the world-renowned French pastry chef who has a franchise in Orchard? But do you know that there are so many insane talents of the likes of Cédric Grolet right here in Singapore, just waiting to be noticed? So who knows,” he muses, “Maybe one day we’ll see a Singaporean opening a pâtisserie in Paris for a change!”
As we reach the end of the day, he carefully watches over his trainee, who meticulously folds thinly sliced apples onto the rim of the tart, before he tops with a saffron crème brûlée to finish. He slices and portions the tart for us, smiling and thanking us for spending time with him, even before our wide eyes and mumbled words of amazement display our own gratitude. Although we spent just one afternoon with him, it was clear to us that Steven truly loves his craft, and we see his love doled out not only on his imaginative, artful creations, but also onto the people that he has committed to mentor and guide. With chefs like Steven, and the many others after him, it seems like there’s hope to be had for the industry, after all.

Leave a Reply

What others are saying

There are no comments yet.