|Chef Ken Zheng|
Interview with Chef Ken Zheng, Chef de Cuisine at The Clifford Pier
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
I am currently the Chef de Cuisine of The Clifford Pier, the Fullerton Bay Hotel’s new flagship dining destination. I hold a Diploma in Culinary Skills from the Singapore Hotel Association Training and Education Centre (SHATEC) and I have been working in the F&B industry locally and internationally for 13 years, with experience in both Asian and Western cuisine. Locally, I have been with a few restaurant groups including the Lo and Behold Group. My overseas stints brought me to the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts in Maldives and The Hotel Amara in Myanmar.
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
There was an incident where I thought a trainee was not taking down notes because he did not have a notebook with him, but he was actually taking down notes on his smart phone. I asked him what would happen if he lost his phone. His reply caught me by surprise as he said that he tends to lose his notebooks but he rarely loses his phone, and even if he did, he would still have all his notes backed up on iCloud.
What's the best/ worst part of your job?
The best and also the most challenging part of my job is serving almost 200 guests at each meal service at The Clifford Pier.
What's your personal favourite meal/ drink at The Clifford Pier?
My personal favourite at the restaurant would be the Rickshaw Noodles. I like to have it with an ice-cold glass of our fresh Cane & Lemon (freshly juiced sugarcane with lemon wedges).
Tell us a story about one of the dishes you prepare...
The Rickshaw Noodles that we serve at The Clifford Pier is a tribute to both my grandfather and father. It is served as a duo – the traditional soup version is exactly the same as what my grandfather used to peddle when he was a hawker at the Clifford Pier back in the 70s and 80s, while the dry version is an all-new creation that I have put together using handmade ban mian to pay tribute to my father who used to sell ban mian.
I remember running around the pier, helping my grandfather draw customers to his stall and doing the dishes with him when we were done. I was only five then, but it was a lot of fun for me and it allowed me to spend time with my grandfather.
My grandfather’s soup version has a pork and anchovy broth, with minced meat and green leafy vegetables. My creation is dry, with handmade ban mian, simmered pork belly and a sous vide egg, flavoured with a special chilli sauce created by my grandfather.
What's one of the funniest things you've seen behind the scenes?
I was in Myanmar and the kitchen received a request for a dish that features rabbits. I asked for eight of the freshest rabbits that we could get and my purchaser came back with eight live pet rabbits. I stared at them, wondering what I can do with them. The rabbits ended up finding their new home in the kitchen as pets with kind and loving owners.
The perfect day off would be....
Spent reflecting on what I have done for the week on both personal and professional fronts, as well as spending time with my family and friends.
A life in the day of a chef is...
Exciting and full of challenges at the same time. It is amazing to see good food being served out of my kitchen every day.
What do you do for fun?
I bowl or watch movies when I have the time. I also enjoy window shopping in supermarkets to keep myself abreast with the ingredients and tools of my trade.
What's something you'd like guests to know about the cuisine prepared at The Clifford Pier?
We wanted the restaurant’s concept to be in accordance with the pier’s significant historical role as the landing point of Singapore’s forefathers and a vibrant meeting point in Singapore’s early days, and to honour the hawker culture that was once characteristic of the site. Therefore, the cuisine focuses on local food that is familiar and close to the hearts of local diners.
We are also passionate about building a platform for celebrating Singapore’s culinary identity while continuing to make it relevant to a new generation of diners. We believe that the restaurant’s selection of Asian signature dishes provides diners with variety and will extend the restaurant’s appeal to diners from all walks of life.
How do you select your ingredients and why?
I love to work with local produce as much as possible because it showcases the original and authentic flavours of our traditional dishes that are rich in heritage. As we cater to a diverse range of diners, seasonal produce sourced globally are also featured in the menu.
What's your view on the Singapore restaurant scene?
Chefs are constantly coming up with innovative ideas and food trends are always changing, but there is always a place for classics and traditional dishes.
What can guests look forward to in the upcoming months?
We are looking forward to exploring collaborations with local culinary experts that will enhance the restaurant’s offerings, and we look forward to sharing the news with our guests in the near future.