Only a year shy of turning thirty, Lewis Barker of one-MICHELIN-starred Sommer at The Sail in Marina Bay is one who does not settle. Always finding ways to constantly improve, refine, and perfect his craft, the young English chef’s cuisine is praised by the MICHELIN Guide inspectors for its finesse, acumen, and harmony.
In partnership with 1664, we follow the footsteps of Barker as he walks us through the day-to-day of running a MICHELIN-Starred restaurant’s kitchen and prepares a special dish using 1664 Blanc.
7:00 a.m. – Rise and Shine
“I would describe a day in my life as eventful,” says Barker. “I wake up early in the morning, around 7:00, and my first job is to make a cup of tea — Yorkshire Gold, to be specific — traditional to where I'm from in Leeds.”
After his morning routine, Barker makes his way to the restaurant, where the first thing he does with his team is discuss the plans for the day, the guests dining at Sommer, what dietary requirements to go through, and then plan out the mise en place accordingly.
11:30 a.m. – Team Briefing
“The next few hours are spent doing the preparation of the food; and then, around 11:30a.m., we'll do the clean-down and set-up for service. We'll do a briefing with the staff at about 11:45a.m., go through some final notes, and then off we go!” explains Barker.
On Staff Motivation
Barker shares that he has always worked in an environment that plays music as energy for the brain and for the motivation of the staff, which is why the choice of music has become a vital part of Sommer. “At Sommer, we’ll play a mix of anything — it could be house music with an extra notch on the volume for a bit more motivation. Sometimes, it’s Arctic Monkeys, lo-fi, whatever contributes to that energetic feeling is important. Just no local Chinese music because I can't understand it,” he says with a laugh.
12:00 p.m. – Lunch Rush
Service begins at noon, with lunch service ending around 3:30 p.m. At around 4:00 p.m. Barker and his team do another clean-down, and then they prepare for the staff meal.
3:00 p.m. – Staff Meal
“During our staff meal, we take some time to discuss work matters, but we also try to switch off from work. We discuss weekend plans and general day-to-day chit chat other than food,” says Barker. “Cooking for the staff is just as important as cooking for the guests because we're here all day, we're busy. It's normally only that one time in the day that we get to sit down and eat. So for me, the staff meal has to be good; it's non-negotiable.”
“We're cooking for our staff, so we have to show some love and respect to the team that's making the restaurant happen. It has to be a good meal.”
According to Barker: “The way our staff meal works is that the responsibility is rotated among the team. We switch cuisines as well because we can't eat the same thing every day. Our staff meal could be pasta, lasagna, garlic bread, or salad — making sure that we get a full and nourished feeling after eating. It's important that everyone has a full stomach, keeping the energy that it takes to run a restaurant and maintain each station’s standards in the kitchen.”
“We’ve got a close family, rather than a team. Together, we keep a tight kitchen, making sure that it's the best that it can be. We learn and develop together as well.”
Inspiring Creativity Within the Team
“For me, Sommer is still new. We’re only less than two years old, and we still have a long way to go to develop the food as well. So, whenever I have an idea of a new dish, I listen to everyone's interpretation of it and then we move forward together,” says Barker.
Upon mentioning that, he brings out a dish of ravioli that’s currently in the works, whose components are cooked with 1664 Blanc. “The dish is a Ravioli of Western Australian Black Truffle, Girolle Mushroom, Grelot Onion, and Aged Parmesan,” he says.
“The dish consists of truffled chicken farcé ravioli with confit egg yolk. We use 1664 Blanc to create a white garlic and beer purée and to braise some Grelot onions in. The aged parmesan foam is also infused with 1664 Blanc,” explains Barker. As a final touch, Manjimup black truffles from Western Australia are shaved on top of the dish.
“Good taste with a twist, for me, is synonymous with elevated originality. Good taste means differently for everyone, depending on what they enjoy. So, for me, I believe that good taste with a twist is something that's already original and very appealing, but highlighted and brought to another level,” says Barker.
“Beer to me signifies several things — a moment of relaxation or a time for celebration, both being joyous occasions, in which some come around quicker than others.”
On Team Rituals
“The ritual I share with the team happens on a Saturday,” he says. “We finish around 1:30 a.m. since we deep clean our restaurant in time for the weekend. When we do finally come together to drink a beer, it's like a mark; a milestone to commemorate the end of a long and busy week. It’s an enjoyable time because we’re celebrating the weekend. It brings us together as we discuss the positives that happened during the week that was, and any negatives as well. This ritual relaxes us and gets us ready for that well-deserved weekend ahead,” he explains.
The Best Time of the Day
Barker shares that it is when he and his team are in service. “It’s when we can see the result of all the effort and hard work put into our preparation. The most enjoyable thing is being able to pass that effort to the guest. The guest is here for the experience and the expectations are high.”
Barker continues: “With that said, the most enjoyable part of my day is when we're cooking for the guests. It’s also the part of the day I look forward to the most. People decide to come to Sommer and spend their hard-earned money to try our food. Having a busy restaurant is a good indicator that we are fulfilling that expectation.” For Barker, seeing Sommer’s guests enjoying themselves, is the most fulfilling part for him.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself to try and be better, but sometimes I've just got to step back and realise that we've done a lot in the past 20 months. Some things are working well, but what keeps me going is making the bad days into good days. That's what we'll always do — get better each day. That's it!” finishes Barker as he adjusts his apron, makes his way to the kitchen, and prepares for dinner service with his team.
Sommer is located at The Sail at Marina Bay, #01-02, 2 Marina Boulevard, 018987, Singapore. Book a table here.