Johanne Siy never dreamt of being a chef. Growing up in Dagupan City in the Philippines, she always loved food, but for a woman in southeast Asia, hospitality is seldom seen as a viable career path. Cut to 10 years later and she has defied all odds to lead the charge at one of Singapore’s premier dining destinations, Lolla.
Siy joined the hospitality industry later than most, breaking away from a corporate career and societal norms to transform her passion for food into a profession when she uprooted her life to enrol at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in New York. Staying in the Big Apple, she continued to build up her culinary repertoire under Eric Ripert at Le Bernardin and Daniel Boulud at his café in the city. She would then leave New York to bounce around some of the world’s finest kitchens, enjoying stints at Fäviken and Noma in Scandinavia and Restaurant André back in Singapore.
After globetrotting and building her own culinary identity, she returned to Singapore at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Here, she took on the position of head chef at Lolla as a temporary measure to help restore the restaurant to its former glory. She evolved its Spanish-focused menu into a produce-driven haven for meticulously crafted dishes, inspired by her experiences across Europe and North America as well as her Filipino upbringing. Two years later, she’s still behind the pass and continuing to fine-tune the restaurant daily.
Within a modern and airy dining room, guests at Lolla have front-seat views to watch Siy and her small brigade craft dishes from the ever-changing seasonal menu. A chutoro (bluefin tuna) tartare, sprinkled with wafer-thin parsley stems and local cornflowers, sits atop a tart painted with squid ink – a masterclass in delicacy and plating. A koji-cured quail with egg yolk and optional truffle borrows from the chef’s global palate to create a symphonious ensemble. Each plate on Lolla’s menu is highly inventive and a reflection of Siy’s journey through gastronomy.
Today, Lolla is a shining star in Singapore’s ever-expanding gastronomic scene, already voted No.75 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022. It’s also one of the few with a woman at the helm. As Asia’s Best Female Chef 2023, Siy hopes to inspire the next generation of women entering hospitality as demonstrable proof that nothing should stand in the way of achieving your goals, no matter when in life they may appear.
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