Cover Chef Rishi Naleendra and Manuela Toniolo

Singapore-based chefs tell us what their partners dish out for them when they are off duty

Culinary professionals are always crafting menus and turning out specialities for their guests, even on special occasions. We find out from these following top chefs what home-cooked dishes their partners lovingly rustle up for them on their days off.

1. Tamara Chavez

Head Chef, Canchita Peruvian Cuisine

Chef Tamara Chavez’s husband Daniel Chavez who’s also chef-owner of Canchita Peruvian Cuisine loves to cook at home. The busy couple works together at their restaurant to roll out exciting Peruvian and Latin American cuisine.

Tamara says that Daniel loves to cook all kinds of soups (using chicken), as well as green salads with apple cider vinegar and olive oil. She adds that Daniel’s speciality is pasta, although they try to avoid eating too much these days as they’re always eating pasta at night after work.

As for her favourite food that Daniel prepares, Tamara says, “I do love it when he cooks Spanish food for me. I have to say that I am very lucky because many people miss the flavours of Ola Cocina del Mar. If my husband wants to surprise me, he always prepares his paella with squid ink noodles, which was one of his famous dishes [at Ola Cocina]. And we enjoy it with some tapas.”

“On weekends, we like to have a balance. Sometimes we eat Mexican food that I prepare, Peruvian food that he prepares, or we make menus based on a country’s cuisine or an ingredient. And on those occasions, we invite our friends to our house. We believe that food tastes better when it is shared.”

2. Carlos Montobbio

Executive Chef, Esquina

Chef Carlos Montobbio’s wife, Cyndiana Ho, a digital marketing manager at Fairmont Singapore & Swissôtel The Stamford, prepares a host of Asian-style dishes for him when they are at home.

“She usually cooks kimchi fried rice, stir-fried pork belly with crispy garlic, dark soy sauce and hua tiao, Thai basil pork, Thai fried omelette, double-boiled soups, anchovy pasta with garlic breadcrumbs, and banana bread,” he says. “She’s a good cook! My favourite dish is her Caribbean jerk chicken wings; it is really tasty and goes along very well with lime wedges and mayo.”

On his days off, Carlos will usually cook breakfast. “We both love avocado toast with fried shallots and tomatoes in the morning, and sometimes we also cook pancakes. She will usually brew the coffee, but for some strange reason, hers is much better than mine, even though we use the same Nespresso machine,” he quips. “For lunch, we sometimes have friends over, as we love to host them. He adds: “Once a week, we’ll go to Cyndiana’s mother’s place to have lunch or dinner with her, and she’ll cook delicious Chinese food.”

Don't miss: A Taste of Home: Chef Carlos Montobbio on His Favourite Dining Places in Spain

3. Rishi Naleendra

Chef-owner, Cloudstreet and Kotuwa

Chef Rishi Naleendra’s wife Manuela Toniolo, who is the general manager at their one-Michelin-starred restaurant Cloudstreet, is a dhaal expert.

“Manuela first started cooking dhal when we started dating, probably 17 years ago. It was the one thing that I ate almost every day. Manuela also loves eating dhal, so she wanted to learn how to make it for both of us. So, when we were in Sri Lanka or even Australia, we always used to cook dhal at home,” shares Naleendra.

He adds: “For me, dhal was a staple growing up, and now, it's still a staple for both of us. I learnt how to make it from my mum, and Manuela learnt it from me. It's the same recipe that we use at Kotuwa today. It's such a comforting and familiar flavour that reminds me of home and family every time I eat it. We usually have dhal with rice, bread or roti.”

“On our days off, sometimes we would cook Sri Lankan food. But most of the time, we really enjoy doing barbecues at home. We would have a few friends over and just spend quality time with them over barbecue and drinks. Manuela would do most of the prep and I would usually do the cooking.”

Also read: Why More Singapore Chefs are Serving Southeast Asian Herbs in Their Restaurants

4. Mariana Campos

Head chef, The Butcher’s Wife

The Butcher’s Wife head chef Mariana is married to Paul Albert who is Tiong Bahru Bakery's chef de cuisine, baker and sourdough expert. Paul, who’s also the chef at Drunken Farmer, usually prepares brunch for Mariana when they’re not working. “Because I like to catch up on my sleep!” she jokes. “My husband will whip up a delicious spread with my favourite dishes such as savoury shakshuka with mushrooms, topped with thick yoghurt and za'atar spice. He serves it with avocados, Tiong Bahru Bakery's amazing sourdough bread that he pan-fries with a touch of ghee, creamy scrambled eggs as well as the freshest homemade ricotta. This is washed down with filtered coffee and fresh juices made from fresh fruits we have on hand—usually mangoes, watermelon or some form of citrus.”

“Our meals at home are based on a fresh and healthy Mediterranean style diet. We enjoy eating loads of steamed quinoa tossed with feta, fresh herbs, seeds and fresh watermelon. Poached or grilled fish, fresh vegetables dressed with citrus juices are also our favourites. On Saturday nights, we always buy some sushi for dinner after service. We enjoy drinking fresh juices, craft beers, and natural wines. I always have a batch of homemade kombucha on hand too!” The couple also likes indulging in cakes and ice creams woven with Asian flavours such as coconut and gula Melaka ice cream, pandan cake and more.

5. Cheung Siu Kong

Chinese Executive Chef, Summer Pavilion, The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore

Chef Cheung and his homemaker wife, Yuen Han Leung, have been married for about 30 years. The loving couple has three sons together.

“She is a great cook and prepares different Cantonese-style double-boiled soups at least twice a week. For instance, fish maw with conch and fresh huai shan or with honeydew melon,” says the chef of one-Michelin-starred Summer Pavilion. In fact, his second son who is working in Hong Kong often hankers for his mum’s homemade soups.

Sometimes when the chef comes home from work late at night, his wife would prepare his favourite comfort food. “I would tell her that I’m hungry,” he quips, adding that she would usually prepare him “a bowl of noodles or udon with Japanese miso, egg and vegetables.”

The Hong Kong-born chef says: “My favourite dessert that she makes is tokachi red bean paste with aged citrus peel.” These tangerine peels are over 40 years old, and are air-dried by his wife’s grandmother in Hong Kong.  

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6. Drew Nocente

Chef-owner, Salted & Hung

Chef Drew Nocente’s wife, Lois Lin, usually takes over the kitchen when they have the chance to eat at home. Lin, who works as the group marketing manager at Unlisted Collection, usually cooks healthy dishes like Chinese stir-fries with beef or pork and a variety of vegetables, which they enjoy with rice.

As a fitness enthusiast, the meals that Nocente prepares at home are “super clean with lots of vegetables, salads and grilled chicken or steak.” But for a special treat on cheat days, he likes to indulge in Lin’s fried carrot cake. “She’s a good cook. Her carrot cake—whose recipe is from her mum—is my favourite dish. She usually fries it with XO sauce and beansprouts,” he shares.

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