Cover Beh E Laine, cofounder of Pun's Ice Cream, with a scoop of Rum & Raisin ice cream (Film still: Goh Kwee Jin)

A diner that also runs fine dining pop-ups, Pun's Ice Cream represents a younger generation of chefs who take food seriously, but don’t kowtow to lists or awards

It is a truism in life, especially in the dog-eat-dog world of F&B, that it always pays to be pleasant to the people you meet—you're going to need friends should you find yourself sliding down the greasy pole. Going by this logic, Tan San Eu and Beh E Laine will always have a safety net.

Affectionately known as "Euwie" and "Elaine" respectively to their friends and fans, the chef/restaurateurs operate a passion project called Pun's Ice Cream in Damansara Jaya. As its name implies, the couple adore double entendres and wordplay. But you won't be sniggering when you taste the Berry Naise, a glorious tumble of fermented berries and cream, or the Prawn Hub, a pescatarian burger featuring a panko-coated prawn patty.

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To sample Pun's Ice Cream's entire menu isn't possible, not when the chefs remove and introduce new dishes on a whim. When you come close to it, however, turn on your Instagram notifications for Pun's Studio to be the first to learn of any pop-ups. A reflection of Euwie's training in revered kitchens in the USA (In Situ), Copenhagen (Amass Restaurant), France (Le Cinq and Pierre Herme), and Japan (Narisawa), the studio is a chance for the twentysomething to flex his fine dining skills. Only select few are aware that Pun’s Studio is a reincarnation of The Gathering.

Euwie fills us in: "The Gathering started as an inside joke when I was working at Amass. After Matt Orlando explained that Amass meant ‘a gathering’, I said I would use the literal English translation for my own eatery. He said no one would come and he wasn’t entirely wrong," says the self-effacing chef. "We stopped the catering company when it started to feel like we were pandering to people’s wants instead of doing what we wanted to do."

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Ranging from their twenties to thirties, Euwie, Elaine and their peers represent of a new generation of F&B players in Kuala Lumpur who enjoy feeding the public, but value internal relationships, self-expression, and, above all, having fun.

"We are lucky," acknowledges Euwie. "The older generation of chefs definitely went through a harder time, especially the ones who travelled overseas. Being an Asian dude in France, England or Australia in the '80s and '90s, you almost certainly experienced discrimination. Upon coming home, they reciprocated by being a bit more aggressive."

This isn't to say that he hasn't been shoved around. "I’ve had a knife put to my throat 'for fun'," he says, eerily calm. "You’re working with very unstable people in a very stressful environment."

Machismo will never completely be purged, especially now that chefs are enjoying an unprecedented amount of celebrityhood, but change is in the air.

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Four- , six-, eight- and even 10-hands dinners are nothing new, but such collaborations lay the groundwork for a more resilient F&B community. 

"I can't think of anything better than working with your friends on food," beams Euwie. "When you own your own restaurant and can’t stray for too long, it’s the best way to learn, especially now because of Covid-19. It teaches you new values, principles and techniques."

Euwie is grateful for his peers such as Gary Anwar of Ember ("He gives off that vibe where he’s very stern, right? But he's actually one of those people who thinks a lot and cares too much"), Lim Heng Kit of Li ("I start to feel weird now if I've gone three days without seeing Kit"), and Aaron Khor and Lee Wei Jian, two Dewakan chefs gone rogue, for not rocking the boat, but helping one another to stay afloat.

Pun's Ice Cream | +6018-913 1818 | | Dine-in menu

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