When working in this often capricious world of gastronomy, it helps to not take oneself too seriously. But one overtly unaffected homegrown chef is known to be unapologetic about it. From christening his style of cuisine “dudestronomy”, which he describes as “the art of elevating low-brow, comfort foods using creativity, skill and good ingredients”, to helping make Middle Eastern cuisine hip with the locals via an inspired rendition that has made his nine-year-old flagship restaurant, Artichoke, a household name, Bjorn Shen—who some may recall was also a judge for the local reality show MasterChef Singapore last year—epitomises what it means to embrace your crazy.
His latest endeavour is a four-seater, three-days-a-week chef’s counter dubbed Small’s for equally obvious reasons. Housed in a broom closet-sized room adjacent to Artichoke, this is where he road tests some of his bravest ideas, such as the current “pizza omakase” menu. “I’m happy that Artichoke is stable for now, but I am bursting with more ideas that don’t necessarily fit at the restaurant,” Shen explains, affirming how he needs a creative outlet, one that’s not tied down to a single concept or cuisine.
“I’m a chef first and a businessman second,” he confesses. “What really drives me is the creative process.” These new creations, he jests, are like snowflakes; all different and only last a short while, making way for new ones. “Over the years, I’ve learnt that people tend to appreciate things much more when they are temporary and in limited supply. Once you make them readily available in the form of a brick and mortar concept with a fixed menu, a lot of that special appeal is lost,” adds the self-confessed chicken wing fanatic.