Chef Nicholas Chew is no stranger to the culinary world. He began his career in food at the age of 19, working under the watchful eyes of master chefs at Japanese restaurants in Japan and Singapore before moving to Hong Kong where he continued to expand his culinary repertoire, working with renowned chefs including the late Michel del Burgo at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and Shane Osborn. He also helped to open and head French restaurant Serge et le Phoque in 2013, which was awarded one Michelin star before it closed in 2018, before taking the helm at art-centric restaurant Bibo.
Today, the adventurous chef is busy with his latest project, Guerilla Lab, a private and corporate events and catering business, which he started just over a year ago with fellow chef John Yip. Armed with impressive culinary credentials, cultural expertise and blazing passion, the duo create distinctive dining experiences.
But Chew hasn’t abandoned his roots. It was growing up in Singapore that he was first exposed to the culinary world—and the country and its cuisine still hold an important place in his heart. Pre-Covid, the chef would return two or three times a year, revisiting his favourite local haunts and savouring the dishes he misses most. Here, he recalls the familiar flavours of local Singaporean food, sharing the dishes that remind him of his childhood and his home.
What do you miss most on the food and drink front when you are away from Singapore or haven’t been back for a while?
I miss being able to enjoy the simple hawker food centres, especially East Coast Lagoon Food Village by the beach, as hawker food is just never the same anywhere else.
What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it?
Depending on the trip, I would usually go to Hjh Maimunah Restaurant in Geylang for nasi padang first. The restaurant is my go-to for a fix of a rich and flavourful array of dishes. It reminds me of growing up with a mix of Peranakan food at home.