Dining Out 4 minutes 09 August 2016

3 Singapore Restaurants That Are Breeding Grounds For The City's Top Culinary Talents

We tip our hats to three pioneering establishments that have groomed Singapore's very best chefs.

It's hard enough running a restaurant these days, let alone one that consistently turns out talents who have gone on to build impressive names for themselves and for the country. This National Day, we celebrate three dining industry stalwarts that have served as ripe breeding grounds for Singapore’s leading chefs over the years.

Les Amis

The grand dame of Singapore’s fine-dining circuit, Les Amis - French for “the friends” - was founded in 1994 by stockbroker Desmond Lim and three friends in a quiet corner of Orchard Road with the aim of bringing the finer aspects of French dining to Singaporean diners.

Twenty two years on, the restaurant has rightfully earned not one but two Michelin stars in the inaugural Singapore guidebook under the charge of head chef Sebastian Lepinoy and lead pastry chef Cheryl Koh. The duo both worked in Les Amis' now-closed one-starred sister restaurant Cepage in Hong Kong before relocating here to work the same kitchen magic. Then as much as now, penning down a stint at Les Amis on their resume has become the Holy Grail for Singaporean chefs aspiring to leave their mark on the global restaurant scene.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Les Amis

Accomplished Alumni:

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Justin Quek
Sky on 57

One of the four founding partners of Les Amis, Quek returned from a year of working in Michelin-starred establishments in Europe to helm Les Amis as its chef de cuisine.

He left the group after a decade to operate and consult on French fine-dining restaurants in other parts of Asia before returning to Singapore in 2010 to fron 240-seater Franco-Asian restaurant, Sky on 57.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Sky on 57

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Ignatius Chan

Chan jumped from being a celebrated sommelier to a restaurateur proper when he fronted Les Amis as its restaurant manager and sommelier, as well as one of its founding partners.

He opened the eponymous Iggy’s in 2004, and is also co-owner of Japanese kaiseki restaurant Yoshiyuki, cocktail bar Horse’s Mouth and the Uma Uma chain of ramen eateries in Singapore and the Philippines.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Iggy's

Sufian Zain
Waku Ghin
Zain kickstarted his career as a commis cook in Les Amis, and later worked his way up to the position of executive chef at Iggy’s. A brief stint at the helm of the Ember restaurant later, Zain returned to hold the fort at Australian-Japanese chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s newly one-starred Waku Ghin.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Waku Ghin

(Related: 8 Singaporean chefs fronting Singapore's Michelin-starred restaurants)

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Gunther Hubrechsen

Trained in Alain Passard’s three-Michelin-starred L’arpege, Belgian chef Hubrechsen took over the reins from Quek when the latter left in 2003, but stepped down himself in 2007 to start his own venture, Gunther’s, on Seah Street, which today remains a well-loved establishment.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Gunther's

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Jason Tan
Corner House

Tan spent six months as a commis cook with Gunther Hubrechsen when the latter helmed Les Amis in 2004, and today runs the show at one-Michelin-starred Corner House, where he fashions pretty (and delicious) plates following his “gastro-botanica” philosophy.

Corner House, incidentally, sits in a black and white bungalow within the UNESCO Heritage-listed Singapore Botanic Gardens that was previously occupied by Au Jardin, the Les Amis Group’s now-closed fine-dining outfit.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Corner House

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Janice Wong

Singapore's golden girl of pastry known as much for her marketing savvy as her art-inspired creations, Wong did a six-month stint at Les Amis under Hubrechsen’s watch before heading to the US to intern in three-Michelin-starred restaurants such as Alinea and Per Se.

Today, besides her 2am:dessert Bar, she runs Cobo House in Hong Kong and will be opening a full-fledged restaurant in the National Gallery next year.


Sweeping views over the Singapore skyline aren’t the only thing diners get treated to at Jaan. The elegant restaurant perched on the 70th floor of Swissotel complex in the heart of the city has a knack for talent-spotting culinary brilliance on the rise and grooming them into headline-hogging industry personalities.

Current British head chef Kirk Westaway joined Jaan in 2011 before stepping up to take the reins as head chef mid-2015, and under his auspices, the restaurant claimed its first Michelin star for its inspired take on nouvelle French cuisine barely a year later.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Jaan

Accomplished Alumni:

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Andre Chiang

Taiwanese chef Andre Chiang moved to Singapore to steer the restaurant - which was renamed Jaan par Andre just for him - for two years after training under heavyweights such as the Pourcel brothers, Michel Troisgros and Pierre Gagnaire.

In 2012, he traded the 5-storey hotel for a Chinatown shophouse when he started his own restaurant, Andre, in partnership with hotelier Loh Lik Peng, and recently claimed two coveted Michelin stars in our 2016 guide.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Andre

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Julien Royer

Stepping out of Jaan at the height of his success (and the restaurant’s growing global repute) was a risky gamble, but it paid off handsomely when Royer garnered two Michelin stars for his own restaurant, Odette, less than half a year out of the gate.

Named after Royer’s grandma, Odette continues the amicable French chef’s painstaking attention to detail, from the premium produce and pours sourced from top producers in Europe, to the intricate tableware made by local artisans.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Odette

Lei Garden

A lofty Chinese restaurant empire that now has over 20 branches across Hong Kong, Macau, China, and Singapore - many of which have also been awarded Michelin stars - Lei Garden’s claim to fame is not only in bringing forth some of the most prominent names in Chinese cooking in Singapore (and Hong Kong) today, it was also, arguably, where mango sago pudding was first created in 1984, when the group opened its first Singapore outlet.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Lei Garden

Accomplished Alumni:

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Cheung Siu Kong
Summer Pavilion

Hong Kong-born Cheung’s 25 years of culinary experience includes a spell with the Lei Garden group in Hong Kong, where he sharpened his skills in crafting delicate dim sum and authentic Cantonese cuisine.

He moved to Singapore in 1996 and worked for Lei Garden here before joining Summer Pavilion in 2003. He was appointed the restaurant’s executive Chinese chef two years ago.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Summer Pavilion


Li Kwok Kwong
Fengshui Inn

Li may be known for his 20-year career at Singapore’s Wah Lok restaurant, but the current head chef of Feng Shui Inn first picked up the craft of making Hong Kong-style dim sum with the Lei Garden group in his native Hong Kong before moving to Singapore to further satiate local appetites.

Read what our inspectors have to say about Feng Shui Inn

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Chan Kung Lai

Born and raised in Hong Kong, chef Chan Kung Lai started his career in prestigious restaurants such as Tack Hsin Restaurant and Lei Garden in Hong Kong before migrating here with the group in 2007.

He stepped up as head chef of Lei Garden’s Orchard outlet after just two years into the job, and is today the head chef of popular Cantonese restaurant Yan in the National Gallery.

Dining Out

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