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While culinary maestros work hard to serve us indulgent dishes on Christmas day, they still hope to savour the festive season with their loved ones after service

For most of us, Christmas day is spent with family, presents and food. However, this may not be the case for chefs. While having to work on Christmas eve changes the way chefs celebrate this festive season, it doesn’t make it any less special. From preserving Christmas traditions to creating new ones, here are some ways our favourite chefs are planning for their holidays.

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Aitor Jeronimo Orive

Chef-Patron, Basque Kitchen by Aitor

“I look forward to spending time with my family during Christmas. Growing up as a single child with a single mom, we didn’t really have massive spreads. But, we would always make something special which we wouldn’t normally have, like lobster or a half a suckling pig.
 
While it is nearly impossible to celebrate Christmas with my family, especially when living abroad, this year I will take some time off to celebrate with them back in Melbourne. For me, some fresh seafood and a big roast is a must. This year, I plan to do a whole charcoal spit roast hog for my family.”

Drew Nocente

Chef-owner, Salted & Hung

“Putting up the Christmas tree is always my favourite part, and it always brings back childhood memories of the festive season.
 
As for Christmas feasts, I love honey baked ham and it is a family tradition to have a nice ham on the table every year. Until today, having this is a must for our Christmas celebration. I usually celebrate with a family dinner on the 26th. Honey baked ham, pasta, roast beef and heaps of vegetables are my must-haves.”

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Salted & Hung

Bugis
$ $ $ $
4
'rating'

Alain Devahive

Chef and co-founder, Olivia Restaurant & Lounge

“While I try to make time to celebrate Christmas with my family, I also enjoy being able to celebrate it with my guests at Olivia. The highlight of my holiday is preserving and sharing food traditions, not just with my family but also with my guests at the restaurant. The recipes I use for my menus are from generations back, such as the juicy Catalan-style stuffed chicken.”

Lewis Barker

Head chef, Sommer

“Eating good food and drinking together with my loved ones is what I look forward to the most. My family is quite traditional with our celebrations—you will find festive classics such as whole roast turkey with cranberry sauce and pigs in blankets on our dinner table. We celebrate Christmas on the day itself, while Christmas eve usually involves a quick beer and cheers after service with the whole team over at the restaurant. One of my favourite recipes is my aunt’s brussel sprout gratin with smoked pancetta and gruyere cheese. It is not for everyone, but I absolutely love it.”

Sommer | 2 Marina Boulevard, 01-02 The Sail, S(018987), 6436 3668 | reservations@sommerdining.com

Read more: Restaurant Sommer Review: New Fine Dining Spot Opens At The Sail, Marina Bay

Kenji Yamanaka

Executive chef, Béni

“Due to work, I do not celebrate Christmas on the day itself. However, watching my customers enjoy their meal, especially during Christmas, makes me happy.
 
As a child, my mother would cook Japanese-style roasted chicken thighs on Christmas day. I miss her Christmas cooking so much and hope to taste it again soon.
 
When I do get the chance to celebrate, it is usually on the 26th, which is also my wife’s birthday—she scolds me every year as I like to celebrate Christmas and her birthday at the same time.”

Béni

Orchard
$ $ $ $
4
'rating'

Remy Carmignani

Executive Chef, Riviera

“What I look forward to the most during this period is expressing love and creating lasting memories with my loved ones. I also hope to bring the same warmth and cheer of my childhood Christmas memories to my guests at Riviera.
 
Some of my earliest childhood memories are from Christmastime with my family. My whole family, led by my grandmother (I miss her and her cooking so much), would prepare celebration meals together in the kitchen, with delicious aromas wafting throughout the house. My family would do impressive nose-to-tail cooking, usually with game meat like a whole wild boar. We would celebrate every part of the boar by making wild boar stewed in red wine, slow-cooked over a low heat until tender, and even home-baked pâté en croûte (pâté baked in pastry). The smell of these hearty dishes really brings back vivid memories of my childhood—and some of the best food memories of my life.
 
Being a chef, our busiest times at work are usually the festive periods. While my wife and kids have grown accustomed to their chef-father/chef-husband working during Christmas, we do make sure to find time during the end of the year to celebrate. I still love to cook with my family and enjoy creating and sharing a special meal together.” 

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Melissa Revilla

Executive Chef, The Dempsey Cookhouse & Bar

“Christmas always reminds me of my family.  I have a huge clan in the Philippines and during this time of the year, all my relatives—no matter where they live—will come home to our province, Davao City to spend the holidays together. Everyone takes turns hosting lunch or dinner for the family.  It's usually a whole week of bonding over food, sharing a whole year’s worth of stories and a lot of laughter.  My aunt always prepares an amazing feast with all the traditional family favorites.

One of my must-haves for Christmas is my aunt's kare-kare—a type of stew that features a thick, savoury peanut sauce. It’s generally made from a base of stewed oxtail, various cuts of pork, beef stew meat and sometimes offal. Vegetables can include eggplant, Chinese cabbage, okra and asparagus beans. The stew is flavoured with ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter, onions and garlic, then coloured with annatto. 

As I am currently in Singapore, I usually join in on the festivities through FaceTime or over Zoom. It really isn’t the same, and I’m looking forward to the day that I can spend a proper Christmas with my family again.”

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