Singaporean chef Mathew Leong has always loved food, thanks to his mum who taught him how to cook Cantonese food well. “I’d always help her in the kitchen when she whipped up a feast for the family,” enthuses Leong.
This inspired him to start his culinary journey; at age 13, he joined his first competition and won his first gold medal. “This ignited my passion towards gastronomy to achieve culinary excellence,” he shares, and at the tender age of 21, he packed his bags and moved to Norway to become the chef de partie of two-Michelin-starred Renaa.
Currently, he is the head chef of Michelin Plate Restaurant À L'aise where he dishes out Nordic-style cuisine infused with Asian flavours. While he works full-time at the restaurant, he reserves his off days training for the Bocuse d’Or 2021 competition that will take place in Lyon, France in September. “I want to make history and be the first youngest Singaporean chef to win gold at this prestigious culinary competition.”
While he’s extremely busy pursuing culinary excellence and making Singapore proud, he makes sure he can go home a few times a year to rest, recharge and get inspired by the country’s vibrant F&B scene. And when he's back, he always has a long list of restaurants and eateries to visit. Here are some of them.
What do you miss most on the food/drink front when you are away from Singapore or haven’t been back for a while?
Mathew Leong (ML) There’s no doubt all the local food and drinks that can’t be found in Norway. Aside from my mum’s signature dishes, among which are Cantonese steamed fish and stir-fry beef with scallions, I also miss ou jian (fried oyster omelette), Hokkien mee, chilli crab, satay and my favourite teh-peng (iced milk tea). Although I do make some of these dishes whenever I crave them, they just don’t taste like home.
What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it?
ML Whenever I am back in Singapore, the first dish I’d eat is usually the Peking duck from Imperial Treasure. Dining here has become a tradition for my family, and this is the restaurant where I celebrated many good memories—including my birthday.