Wednesday 24 September 2014

ITE student wins cookoff for Gordon Ramsay internship

By Rebecca Lynne Tan, The Straits Times, 22 Sep 2014

First-year culinary arts student Koh Han Jie, 21, from ITE College West's Institut Paul Bocuse beat three other contestants to be the first intern at Michelin-starred chef Gordon Ramsay's Bread Street Kitchen at Marina Bay Sands.

Koh, along with three other students representing Shatec, Culinary Institute of America and At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, had 10 minutes to cook a mystery ingredient, which later turned out to be eggs.

The cookoff was held at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Monday morning. Ramsay is slated to open an offshoot of Bread Street Kitchen at the integrated resort in April next year.

The contestants had to cook eggs three ways: omelette, poached and soft-boiled.

Ramsay said: "The humble egg just got serious."

He added that he was keen to see which style of egg each young, aspiring chef would cook first.

For the participants, the 10 minutes passed by too quickly.

As Ramsay went from station to station, tasting and critiquing each participant's eggs, he also quizzed them on the cooking methods and the rationale behind them.

For instance, when reviewing their poached eggs, he asked if they had added vinegar to the water and if they had swirled the water in the pot before cracking the egg into it; and how long they cooked each egg for.

Mr Koh's eyes lit up when Ramsay cut into his runny-yolk poached egg and pronounced it "perfect".

His omelette, which included a touch of cream to create a richer texture, was slightly runny in the middle, and was brushed with melted butter to add flavour and a sheen to the surface.

Mr Koh says: "I was very nervous at first and my hands were shaking. But I kept telling myself not to sc*** up."

Ramsay learns from mistakes
After being burnt in partnerships, the celebrity chef is more cautious now about joint ventures
By Rebecca Lynne Tan, The Straits Times, 23 Sep 2014

His restaurant at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) is due to open only in April next year, but Michelin-starred celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay is already saying he might open another one here.

"I think the next stage would be a slightly more upscale Gordon Ramsay two or three years down the line, especially (given) some of the locations here now, (which are) breathtaking," he tells Life!.

The chef was in town for the Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix and to talk to the media about his new restaurant here. He is here with his business partner of 14 years, Mr Stuart Gillies, 48, managing director of the Gordon Ramsay Group.

On why the duo decided to bring their Bread Street Kitchen concept here, Ramsay says: "Bread Street Kitchen hatched coming out of a recession and the timing was perfect. It taught us a lot and that's why we're bringing it to Singapore - because it is such an exciting concept.

"But it is not just selling a name with a label and sending over a chef - it's a lot more than that. And we've been guilty of that in the past."

The first Bread Street Kitchen is at Bread Street in London, near St Paul's Cathedral, and is a large, buzzy restaurant with a bar. He recently opened an offshoot in Hong Kong.

The Singapore restaurant will have 120 seats, a terrace and span about 6,000 sq ft. The restaurant's interior here will be similar to its other outlets and take on an industrial-warehouse theme. Ramsay says he hopes to have a brigade of 120 to 130 staff, of which about 45 to 50 will be in the kitchen.

He says he has been interested in the food scene here since his first visit in 1998. At the time, he was one of several guest chefs, including the Pourcel brothers and Alain Ducasse, who were headlining a food and wine event at the Raffles Hotel. He remembers conducting a culinary class for 25 housewives and then indulging in Singapore's street food at a hawker centre until 4.30am.

Asked what took the group so long to open a restaurant here, the Scotland- born chef says with a laugh: "Multiple TV shows and 25 restaurants."

The infamously foul-mouthed chef, better known for popular television shows including Masterchef US and Hell's Kitchen, runs restaurants that span cities such as Paris, Doha and New York.

Ramsay adds: "I think also, to be honest, four years ago (when Marina Bay Sands opened), we weren't ready for it.

"We were transforming and turning around London and we were also coming out of the end of a recession. Also, we were restocking - we were getting set to expand cautiously."

He is the latest celebrity chef to add to the existing suite of restaurants at MBS, which already include outfits by top names such as United States-based chefs Daniel Boulud of db Bistro Moderne, Sydney's Tetsuya Wakuda and Wolfgang Puck of the steakhouse Cut.

However, Ramsay is reportedly embroiled in a US$10-million (S$12.7- million) lawsuit with ex-business partner Rowen Seibel over now-shuttered restaurants in the United States.

Asked if he is worried about his new partnership with MBS, having been burnt by former partnerships, he says: "I've always been good at learning from mistakes. And there is not anyone in the world who hasn't made those mistakes.

"So you come back strong and you learn. What we have been careful with over the last three years is choosing our partners smartly, in a way that we look at existing operations first in terms of what they've got, who they have attracted... and how they propel that talent."

On his global expansion and more recent foray into Asia, he says: "We're not licensing our name to a contract caterer. This is quite serious for us. We don't just sell a franchise because we want to get rich. It's a partnership and it's a mechanism that both parties have to work equally hard to make successful."

The menu at Bread Street Kitchen here will be adapted to suit the culture and palates here, into "a Singapore-style and blend", in terms of using local ingredients and harnessing local talent.

Prices have not been finalised, but Ramsay says the restaurant is "not going to be a $250 a head, fine-dining restaurant... It's not going to be seriously expensive. Clearly, it's not going to be cheap, but it's going to be value for money".

Dishes at yesterday's sneak peak included lobster and quail Scotch eggs with gem lettuce and bottarga; and a bitter chocolate tart with honeycomb.

Yesterday, he also selected the first local intern for his new restaurant. First-year culinary arts student Koh Han Jie, 21, from ITE College West's Institut Paul Bocuse, beat three other contestants after a mystery-ingredient cookoff.

Mr Koh, along with three students representing Shatec, Culinary Institute of America and At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy, had 10 minutes to cook a mystery ingredient, which turned out to be eggs. They had to be cooked three ways: omelette, poached and soft-boiled.

Ramsay pronounced his runny-yolk poached egg "perfect". Mr Koh says: "I was nervous and my hands were shaking. But I kept telling myself not to s**** up."

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