How did your passion for food start?
From young, I’ve been surrounded by really good cooks—my grandmother, my mother, my aunt, and our family cook who’s been with us for 30 years have all made great food. Ironically, I was a very picky eater (laughs), but I’ve obviously gotten much better since.
You come from a very rich family heritage—how has that shaped your early years?
One of the most memorable things would be growing up with a variety of dishes on the dining table. There was always a bit of Dutch, Indonesian, Thai, and Western: food was a celebration of my family’s cultural heritage in one way or another. Whenever someone asks me what my favourite cuisine is, it’s hard to give a direct answer, because I grew up having so many favourites that spanned cultural boundaries so I can never identify with just one.
Even now, I know the importance of being open-minded and trying new things. My background has also made me a curious person—growing up, there were so many different facets to explore in the mix of cultures within my family and this instinct has stayed with me till now.
What do you think is your comfort dish?
This is so random, but I actually love pizza (laughs). I know it has nothing to do with my cultural background or my history but it’s such a good comfort food. I like my pizzas really simple: a Margherita with anchovies or a classic Hawaiian. I guess you could always argue that my love for bread and cheese came from my Dutch side of the family.
One advice for your children to take through life:
I’d like them to be courteous, kind, and always be God-fearing persons. There’s a quote I keep close to my heart: “Love God, love people, love life, and change the world.” It’s something I feel is always very applicable and a good reminder to have with you.
An assumption about the F&B industry that isn’t true:
Food is not a glamorous industry. It involves a lot of hard work and you have to be willing to get your hands dirty. If you like experiencing something new, F&B is a great industry because there are so many moving parts that could either go right or wrong. You always have to be willing to learn, because there’s always going to be someone who’s better, newer, or faster.
Something personal that I wouldn’t agree on would be the label of “fusion” cuisine. Singapore has such a diverse food landscape—when you go to a hawker centre with your friends or family, each person can order a completely different dish with very different histories. So I always find it interesting when people try to label restaurants, like Plentyfull which I run, as fusion, because people eat the same way outside of more formal dining settings.