Cover Cherish Finden, award-winning celebrity pastry chef in London

Award-winning celebrity pastry chef Cherish Finden shares the dishes she's pining for and where to have Singaporean food in London

Cherish Finden may have been in London for 20 years, but she still craves the bold flavours of Singaporean cuisine. “I usually go home every year but the last time I was there was before lockdown,” she says. Having been away from home for two years, Finden sorely misses Singaporean dishes and her family’s cooking but a silver lining is that the flavours she holds close to her heart are often laced in her delectable modern creations. 

Called one of the “grand dames of the British pastry”, the award-winning chef is known for meticulously-crafted desserts and pastries throughout her long career in luxury hospitality. Finden is perhaps most familiar to the British public as a chef-judge on the Bake Off: The Professionals (the sister show of the well-loved reality TV seriesThe Great British Bake Off), where she gives pointed critiques to the contestants comprised of pastry teams from different restaurants and hotels in the UK.  

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Her high standards are not surprising as she has deep experience at establishments that demand perfection. She worked at Raffles Hotel before she left Singapore in 2001, and made her name in the UK as the executive pastry chef at the Langham Hotel between 2009 to 2017. She then took a break from hotels and assumed the role of Creative Development Chef at Godiva, where she came up with the world’s most expensive Easter egg crafted completely from Belgian chocolate (valued at £10,000). 

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Today, Finden is the executive pastry chef at Pan Pacific London, the Singaporean brand’s first-ever hotel in Europe that opened in September 2021. “Funnily enough I used to work for Pan Pacific Singapore back in 1991, so coming back feels like a homecoming of sorts. My role is very creative and I get to work with such a fabulous team,” she says.

The hotel offers a taste of Singapore-style service and cuisine to the international guests they welcome at the London property. General Manager Anne Golden shares, “Guests can enjoy a traditional British Afternoon Tea or try our Kopi Tiam Afternoon Tea with Singaporean curry puffs and mushroom bao buns, which are served instead of the usual sandwiches. For our opening, we also created our own version of the Gardens by the Bay tree and light show that lit up our Plaza.”

Here, Finden tells us about her go-to locations in Singapore:

What do you miss most on the food/drink front when you are away from Singapore or haven’t been back for a while? 

It has to be Hainanese Chicken Rice. It’s my comfort food and it always makes me feel warm inside. It also signifies that I am finally home. Luckily, the restaurant team at Straits Kitchen at Pan Pacific London serve a delicious Hainanese Chicken Rice so whenever I feel a little homesick I pop in to be reminded of home. 

What is the first dish you eat when you return and where do you go for it?

Mee Pok Fish Ball Noodle Soup. It reminds me of my grandma who is a huge inspiration to me. I would get it from the Newton Food Centre; I just love the hustle and bustle as well as the smells and atmosphere there. 

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Singapore?

For special occasions it would be the East Coast Seafood Centre, as they do the best Chilli Crab and all the seafood is extremely fresh. Whenever there was a special occasion in the family, we would go there to celebrate.

For a more casual experience I would visit Newton Food Centre. There is such a variety of dishes available, and each vendor is an expert on their dish.   

If you have visitors/guests with you, where do you ensure you always go to give them a real taste of Singapore?

I would take them to Lau Pa Sat to taste authentic grilled satay with peanut sauce. They grill it over hot charcoal and it's just so delicious. The venue is also stunning so it's a real feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. 

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What are your favourite Singaporean heritage dishes and where are some of the places you go to find them?

There are so many but my favourite would be my grandmother’s recipes from her kitchen, specifically Teochew Porridge, Pineapple Tart, and Tau Suan. I try and incorporate heritage dishes and flavours in my pastries at The Orchid Lounge at Pan Pacific London, which is a homage to my grandmother.

Where do you like to meet up with old friends for food/drinks?

I love to catch up with friends and family at the East Coast Seafood Centre or any of the kopi tiams in Singapore - I love them all so much so that I named my afternoon tea after them.

What do you always take back home with you when you leave Singapore?

My go to is Bar Kwa (sweet bamboo pork). It is very difficult to find here in the UK and it is a delightful treat when I get back from visiting. 

Where do you go to find authentic flavours of home in London?

It might sound biased but it has to be Straits Kitchen at Pan Pacific London. All our dishes are full of flavour and very authentic, and the team draws on their own heritage and cooking skills to create delicious dishes. 

What do you love most about Singaporean cuisine?

It is so heartwarming and filling, but most of all I love it because Singaporean food is always about sharing. Our food is truly meant to be enjoyed with loved ones.

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