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First Day I Got My Michelin Stars: Ivan Brehm Of Nouri In Singapore

We get the world's most celebrated chefs to recall what it was like when they got their very first Michelin stars.
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When the selection of the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018 was announced in July, there were five new entrants into the one-Michelin-star category, including modern European restaurant Nouri.

This was certainly not chef-owner Ivan Brehm’s first brush with the stars. He honed his craft in the kitchens of Per Se in New York, Mugaritz in Spain’s Basque County, Hibiscus in London and spent four years at The Fat Duck working his way up to development chef of Heston Blumenthal’s Experimental Kitchen before arriving on Singapore shores in 2013 to head restaurant Bacchanalia.
Nouri is a culmination of Brehm's career thus far (Pic: Robin Thang)
Nouri is a culmination of Brehm's career thus far (Pic: Robin Thang)
In 2016, he led the re-branded The Kitchen at Bacchanalia to a Michelin star when the guide was first launched in Singapore, then surprised the local dining scene when he left the restaurant to go back to his home country of Brazil just half a year later for personal reasons.

While he originally had no intention of returning to Singapore, a fortuitous chat with prolific restaurateur Loh Lik Peng resulted in the opening of restaurant Nouri in 2017 in partnership with the Unlisted Collection. The restaurant to call his own was a culmination of all his global experiences, expressed in what he’s dubbed “crossroads cooking” — a style that draws inspirations from cuisines all over the world.
(from left) First-time one-Michelin-star awardees: Tim Lam of Jiang-Nan Chun, Mathieu Escoffier of Ma Cuisine, Katrina Wheeldon-Pynt of Burnt Ends, Tomoo Kimura of Sushi Kimura and Ivan Brehm of Nouri.
(from left) First-time one-Michelin-star awardees: Tim Lam of Jiang-Nan Chun, Mathieu Escoffier of Ma Cuisine, Katrina Wheeldon-Pynt of Burnt Ends, Tomoo Kimura of Sushi Kimura and Ivan Brehm of Nouri.
At the MICHELIN Guide Singapore 2018 gala dinner and ceremony, Brehm went on stage to receive the award for Nouri to rapturous applause. Looking visibly ecstatic, he said: “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.”

He shares how he and his team celebrated their win that evening.

What was your first encounter with the MICHELIN Guide?

I honestly can’t remember. It seems like forever!

What was it like when your restaurant received a Michelin star for the first time?
It’s a great feeling. Winning the star felt like a great release as we have been doing a lot of work to be recognised. Nouri is a tiny place running on a shoestring budget, built on doing good. To know that it is working — that’s a wonderful feeling.
Nouri's Chicken Debal features butter poached chicken breast, debal curry, achar pickles and rice crackers (Pic: RobinThang)
Nouri's Chicken Debal features butter poached chicken breast, debal curry, achar pickles and rice crackers (Pic: RobinThang)
How did you celebrate?
We partied hard. There was lots of dancing, eating, drinking and some serious hangovers.

How has the MICHELIN Guide impacted your career?
I guess, indirectly. The objectivity and quality assessment the guide attempts to provide help to drive the industry forward. Standards are improved and the idea that someone is watching keeps the industry in check and keeps the chef thorough.

What advice do you have for young chefs aiming for Michelin stars?

Stars are in the sky. Accolades and recognition are a by-product of objective work done well. The focus of a chef is and should forever be on cooking food for his guests and improving his relationships with his team of collaborators, staff, farmers and producers at large. If a star is what you want, then I’d say you are in the wrong business.

RELATED: Nouri’s Ivan Brehm Puts The Heart Back Into Fine Dining
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