Chef-owner Andre Chiang of fine dining establishment Restaurant Andre cuts a tall, imposing and confident figure in person - not least because he’s known for having a perfectionist streak, seen in every detail of his intimate 30-seater restaurant from its minimalist decor to his brand of innovative French nouvelle cuisine.
The 40-year-old might be born in Taiwan and raised in Japan but the bulk of his gastronomic influence and training was in France. He has worked under some of the most illustrious names in the French culinary cannon: Laurent Pourcel, Pierre Gagnaire, Joel Robuchon and even keeps a collection of Michelin Guides from France dating back to 1960.
In 2010, he opened Restaurant Andre, sweeping up multiple accolades in the years after. His most recent one? A two-Michelin-star rating in Singapore's inaugural Michelin Guide. We popped by his restaurant in Bukit Pasoh to hear more about what the guide means to him, and the advice he has for young chefs aspiring to join the Michelin league.
I've heard about it ever since I arrived in France when I was 15 – that was about 25 years ago. Every restaurant I worked in in France has a three-Michelin-star rating. That is the only thing that I know and have worked with. The standards, the quality, the expectations – all these have become natural to me.
You collect the French Michelin Guides. Tell us more about that.
Ihave a collection that starts from 1960. I was in France for 17 years and I got my first one when one of my friends gave me a Michelin Guide from the year of my birth, which is 1976. They are quite interesting to look through, and you’ll see who are the stars of the 60s, 70s and 80s. It is like seeing the famous actors or rock stars of the period.
I don’t really go all out to hunt for them. I’ve never really said, “I must have that year.” It just happened naturally. I've received some from my friends who happen to have some guides lying around or I buy them whenever I visit second hand bookstores in Paris. It took me about 17 years to complete the collection from 1960 till the most recent edition.
We celebrated together with my team. When the ceremony ended, my wife Pam and I came back to the restaurant and had dinner with the team, which is what we always do when have a celebration. Everyone cooked one dish. We have 12 nationalities so it’s almost like a buffet dinner, in which have everything from Shanghainese to Filipino and Korean cuisine.
Don’t lose the identity of your restaurant and really deliver good food. Focus on what is your own style, character and identity. Sometimes you may want to be someone else, or your decisions are distracted by what other people are doing, or how you think you can earn two or three stars. But don’t lose your original intention, which is to cook for your guests. restaurantandre.com
Further reading: Hungry for chef-related stories? Click here to view more.