Chefs aren’t only cooks—they’ve become rock stars, activists, and influencers even outside the kitchen. While Singapore is just a little red dot, there is a healthy concentration of stellar chefs, including Australian chef Sam Aisbett.
Chef Aisbett earned his stripes working with big names such as Tetsuya Wakuda at Tetsuya’s and Peter Gilmore at Quay, culinary experiences that have led him to develop his own interpretation of modern Australian cuisine with Asian touches. He consistently dishes out delicious, multi-cultural plates that has made Whitegrass a must-visit.
With his new-found fame and flowing accolades—including being awarded Singapore Tatler’s Best New Restaurant 2016/2017—we check up on him to see how his life and cooking changed since venturing out on his own.
What do you love about Singapore and its food?
Sam Aisbett I love the food culture here. People are just so passionate about food. Whether you’re dining at hawker centres, mid-range casual eateries or celebrity chef fine dining restaurants, you can eat very well here.
How has this influenced your new menu?
SA The white cut chicken dish on the new menu was inspired by my love of chicken rice. I also introduced a jade tiger abalone with three treasures, which I created after tasting the most delicious scallop dumpling and three treasures dish in a Chinese restaurant.
How has your past play into your present?
SA It was great to learn from such amazing chefs. I love how chef Tetsuya has so much respect for the ingredients used in a dish. Each and every element has its place and reason for being on the plate. With chef Peter Gilmore, texture is one of the key elements in a dish. Food at Whitegrass combines soft and silky textures, contrasted with some crispiness and crunchiness.
Local food you can’t live without:
SA Roti prata. I can have this for breakfast or supper. It’s such a simple dish but very tasty and comforting. Another local dish I love is carrot cake. I recently discovered the kampong carrot cake at Tiong Bahru Food Hawker Centre. The uncle has been cooking the same dish for over 30 years and makes everything from scratch.
Your favourite local drink:
SA Masala Doodh, which I always order when I’m in Little India. It's a milk-based drink with spices, saffron and almonds.
You also love tattoos. What’s the story behind them?
SA I love animals, and you’ll find a tattoo of my dog Jagger on my arm. He comes across as a fierce bulldog but in reality, he is one of the gentlest and docile creatures you’ll ever meet. I also have a tattoo of a cheeky elephant I bonded with when my wife Annette and I volunteered at Elephant National Park in Chiang Mai and one of the Sea Shepherd ships, which is a marine conservation group I’m involved with. I’m not sure what I’m getting next but I'm not going to stop until I'm covered. Take that mum!
If you could trade places with anyone, who would it be and why?
SA Richard Branson. He doesn't have a worry in the world, owns an amazing island and is always having fun. We need more people like him.