Close to 400 people, including corporates, restaurateurs and chefs, attended the sold-out dinner in Resorts World Sentosa that was whipped up by Michelin-starred chefs from Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Taipei.
Of the 39 establishments that made it to this year’s honour roll, the one-Michelin star category saw the most movements with five newcomers. They are Cantonese restaurant Jiang-Nan Chun in Four Seasons Singapore, modern European restaurant Nouri in Amoy Street, Japanese restaurant Sushi Kimura in Palais Renaissance, modern Australian barbecue restaurant Burnt Ends in Teck Lim Road and wine-centric French restaurant Ma Cuisine in Craig Road.
Looking visibly ecstatic, chef Ivan Brehm says that the accolade “felt like a great release as we have been doing a lot of work to be recognised”. On his restaurant, which serves “crossroads cooking” that draws inspirations from cuisines from all over the world, he says: “Nouri stands for something slightly different from the majority of restaurants that I’ve known or worked in. For us to receive such a recognition, it means that we are on the right track.”
Also receiving a rapturous reception was Burnt Ends. While chef Dave Pynt was conspicuously absent due to work commitments, his wife Katrina Wheeldon-Pynt accepted the award on his behalf. She notes that this one-star status is “more for the staff who have worked amazingly hard”.
“It is our third year and we haven’t actually changed anything in the restaurant, so we are a little shocked,” she says with a chuckle. “Dave does this because he loves this. He is a barbecue man.”
Another newcomer is seven-month-old Ma Cuisine, which serves classic French cuisine and carries more 800 labels from wine-producing regions in France and uncommon ones such as Hungary and Lebanon.
Chef-owner Mathieu Escoffier says: “We don’t feel the pressure as we were not working to get a star. We do our job with passion by having guests discover wines with comfort food.”
One of them is French restaurant Les Amis, which has retained its two stars over the past three years. Executive chef Sebastien Lepinoy was disappointed by the absence of three-star restaurants in this year’s list.
He says: “I am sad as Singapore will be less attractive to tourists. For Les Amis, tourists make up 20 to 25 per cent of diners. It will be more difficult to attract tourists from the United States and Europe as they want to visit a three-star restaurant on their food trips. They will visit other cities like Tokyo, Hong Kong and Seoul, which have three-star restaurants.”
Japanese restaurant Shoukouwa also held on to its two-star rating for the third year. Sounding relieved is Edina Hong, director of the Emmanuel Stroobant Group which also owns one-Michelin-starred Saint Pierre.
Hong says candidly: “If there is a restaurant that keeps me up at night, it is Shoukouwa. As a two-star restaurant, it can go up or down. I will continue to have sleepless nights. If, at some point, both restaurants get two stars, I will get a heart attack. It is stressful work but this is a global recognition.”
Chef-owner Han Liguang of modern Singapore restaurant Labyrinth, which retained its one-star accolade, feels happier maintaining the rating than winning it last year. “After we received the star, we had more customers with almost the same amount of staff, which is strenuous to our operations,” he says. “This is validation that we have achieved a level of consistency in the kitchen.”
Speaking to the media after the gala dinner, Michael Ellis, international director of the MICHELIN Guides, acknowledged the lack of a three-star establishment in this year’s guide.
However, he highlighted that this year’s guide has an extended coverage of the local hawker food scene. He says: “Singapore has great food — fine-dining is at the top of the pyramid but if you look beneath, there is a strong depth and breadth of great food in hawker centres too.”