The self-professed “gypsy chef” says with a chuckle: “Sometimes, I’d wake up in a daze and lose track of what country or day it is. As a chef, travelling is my biggest inspiration for my cuisine. Having that insatiable curiosity to see what’s out there and get out of the norm keeps me excited and frees me up to try new things.”
That’s why it comes as a surprise that Myers only took his first flight at the grand old age of 21. Then, the Los Angeles native was relocating to France to work under the tutelage of renowned French chef Gerard Boyer of Les Crayeres, before honing his craft in restaurants such as Restaurant Daniel by Chef Daniel Boulud in New York and running his former flagship restaurant Sona, which received one MICHELIN Star.
He reflects: “As a child, travelling was somewhat of a mystery to me. But once I was in France, I started travelling and exploring around Europe, and that planted a bug in me that never left.”
Travel fuels much of Myers’ inspiration and creativity, as he proudly proclaims that the concept of every single restaurant that he has opened is created from his travels.
One of them is Adrift, which he says is the closest to his heart out of the seven restaurant brands that he runs. The restaurant first opened in Marina Bay Sands in 2015. Pointing out the “d” in the restaurant’s design of Adrift is purposely designed backwards, which evokes a sense of playfulness and exploration, be it through meeting new people, learning about new cultures or exposing himself to new experiences, that he translates and brings to the plate.
He shares: “Some of the best experiences of my travels are getting to know people better through food. I take these flavours and memories that move and strike me and find ways to incorporate them into dishes.”
Over the past four years, Adrift has been known for its inventive Japanese dishes with a Californian touch. Myers has taken his love for Japanese culture to the next level by opening Adrift’s first overseas outlet in Tokyo’s Marunouchi business district last November.
While Adrift in Singapore serves Japanese with a Californian edge, its Tokyo outpost carries a Spanish theme, which is inspired by Myers’ trips to the Basque Country and Barcelona. Influences include the liberal use of olive oil, sherry, saffron and paprika, and the art of cooking over an open fire. Dishes include Peri Peri Chicken, patatas bravas, shrimp ajillo and pintxos (small snacks) like pan con tomate and yuzu ikura toast.
He shares: “I wanted to bring about something that I thought would fit in very well in Japan, which is more of a Spanish influence. Tapas, izakaya, small plates and sharing go hand in hand.”
One of the signature dishes on Tokyo’s Adrift menu is the grilled octopus, which is sourced from Tsukiji. It is sous vide with wine and herbs for eight hours, grilled and finished with olive oil, crushed garlic and thyme on a pan.
Certain elements of the restaurant’s worldly interiors, such as the mismatched chairs and tables, antique adornments, chic lighting features, open kitchen and bar programme, are also brought over from the Singapore restaurant.
Over the past 14 years, Myers has been a regular in Tokyo. He loves immersing himself in the city’s dynamic culture, from whetting his appetite in hole-in-the-wall eateries and bars to exploring craft shops.
One of his favourite neighbourhoods is Shibuya, a popular shopping and entertainment enclave that is famed for its bustling pedestrian scramble crossing and labyrinth of izakaya eateries and bars. He says: “Coming to Shibuya is like taking an elixir of youth as it has such an intense buzz with the shops and music.”
Amidst the frenzy, Myers also relishes the juxtaposition of pockets of serenity in shrines and parks that are nestled among the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. He says: “I always love to go out running to find these tranquil spots. It is like finding calm in the storm. You hear the rustling of the leaves and take in the moment to breathe.” Outside Tokyo, he counts the bamboo forest in Kamakura as one of his favourite nature spots.
He shares: “Meditation has helped me to become more resilient and focused by taking the noise away. The best thing in life is once that you have found that moment of clarity, you are unstoppable and inspired. That’s when the magic begins.”
Our trip with Myers to Tokyo coincides with the start of the blooming season of the sakura trees across Tokyo. Admiring the sea of pink flowers along the banks of the Meguro River, he waxes lyrical over how watching sakura flowers bloom is representative of life.
He says: “I love the fact that the sakura season clearly signifies spring time in Japan. It is exciting. As chefs, we know that so many products are coming to life, from asparagus to sweet peas, and I look at the shift in seasons as a whole new clean slate to begin creating again.”
Besides seasonal produce, Myers also finds inspiration from wagashi served in traditional Japanese sweets shop. One of his favourite haunts is Higashiya in Ginza, where he enjoys how traditional sweets flavours have been modernised and paired with sake and tea. Newfangled wagashi include Natsume Butter (dried dates, fermented butter and roasted walnut) paired with roasted green tea, and Koimurasaki (purple sweet potato and cashews) paired with a butterbur sprout drink.
“The flavour combinations in these wagashi are very chef-like, which pushes the boundaries, and are precise with delicate flavours,” he says. “I came up with five ideas for dishes while savouring the wagashi.”
Paring Down To The Essentials
While Myers is heavy on taking in inspiration during his travels, he travels light — only with a carry-on bag. He says: “Travel has forced me to pare down, simplify and be focused. When you are constantly on the road, you have to pare down to the essentials.”
This approach is similar to cooking too. He explains: “If we find that something is not needed in a dish, we have to remove it. The moment you remove everything, you get to the point where you cannot take away a single item or else the dish will no longer be a dish, it is where you’ve reached the perfect place.”
Moving forward, Myers is looking at launching Adrift in “fun and exciting countries that are off the beaten path” such as Vietnam, India and Morocco in the near future.
He says: “The beauty of Adrift is that it can go anywhere in the world. Regardless of the restaurant’s location, the food will always have a core Californian component that focuses on great ingredients. At the end of the day, it is about what moves and inspires us, and that is when the next trip comes in.”