The chef who redefined fine dining in Singapore
One of the most talented, driven and competitive cooks in the world, André Chiang has been searching for perfection for the entire course of his near 30-year career. It was at the end of last year that he says he realised his flagship Restaurant André was “perfect as it is,” and he decided to close its doors forever, content with reaching No.2 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and No.14 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
With Restaurant André now behind him – the chef oversaw his last service for the friends and family of staff on 14th February – Chiang now finds himself in an arguably ‘perfect’ moment to look to the future and focus on using his achievements to help young chefs, specifically in his birth country of Taiwan as well as across Asia.
While Chiang learnt to cook over two decades working in French kitchens such as Le Jardin des Sens with Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, he soon developed his own unique style, redefining French cuisine with Asian touches. He moved to Singapore 10 years ago, first opening Jaan par André at Swissôtel The Stamford and then launching his own Restaurant André. “Before it opened, I remember thinking ‘What is André’s cuisine? Is it French? Is it Taiwanese? Is it Singaporean?’ The answer is it’s André’s cuisine.”
Chiang went on to define his outlook further with the term “Octaphilosophy,” a concept that describes the eight elements that guide his cooking – namely Salt, Texture, Unique, Memory, Purity, Terroir, South and Artisan. It is perhaps the chef’s insistence on originality that led him to the rare move of hiring only staff who have never worked elsewhere, creating a kitchen of Chiang’s disciples, each able to flawlessly recreate his signature foie gras jelly and frozen white truffle dishes. The restaurant opened only when the chef himself was in the kitchen and his wife on front of house, and he says he wanted guests to think of it as “André’s home”.
Chiang already has multiple projects beyond Restaurant André. He opened both Raw in Taipei and Porte 12 in Paris in 2014, and he has a stake in the casual barbecue restaurant Burnt Ends in Singapore, both of which are on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list. He has numerous plans in the pipeline for Singapore and Taiwan and while he plans to base himself in the latter, he says he won’t be leaving Singapore for good. His projects will involve setting up a platform for young chefs as well as creating new restaurants.
While 2018 may seem a fitting year for Chiang to win a Lifetime Achievement Award, it by no means signals the end of his career. At 41 years old and with even more ambition than ever, Chiang is merely starting over.
Now read Chiang's interview when he received the award and the interview with the chef when Restaurant André closed.