Jasmin Chew – a rising star in the Singapore food scene
Jasmin Chew, Pastry Chef at Stellar at 1-Altitude, is a rising star in the Singapore food scene. We talk to her about what it’s like to be a pastry chef in her city.
By Victoria Burrows
What inspired you to build a career in the kitchen?
I believe it’s the fond memories I have – whether it was my father flipping out pancakes or French toast, or me cooking what I loved eating for my parents or friends.
I remember when I was barely in primary school, I used to cook instant noodles for my parents just the way I liked it – simmered to the point where the noodles are so soggy they melt between your chopsticks. I got praised for how good my instant noodles tasted. It’s a funny memory, but despite its simplicity, it really did wonders to get me started in this direction because now as a chef, I’m always experimenting, paying attention to how other’s serve their food, adding ingredients, changing it up, and cooking the way I thought was good.
Why pastry rather than be a culinary chef?
When I first started, pastry wasn’t a big thing in Singapore. It wasn’t until I went to study in Melbourne that I got introduced to another level of sweets and pastries that I’d not been acquainted with in Singapore. And with interest, comes “research” (a.k.a. trying out new pastries whenever I got the chance, just like a real foodie) and then followed by love and passion. I’ve never looked back, and I’m proud to be a pastry chef because it’s what I enjoy doing the most.
You trained at L’Ecole Valrhona – why are you so passionate about chocolate?
I was really lucky to be given the chance to train at L’Ecole Valrhona. It was a great opportunity to get myself out there and experience what it’s like on the other side of the world.
A great many people out there are passionate about their chocolate and I’m one of them. It’s an ingredient that is as versatile as it is sensitive and when you do it right, it does wonders to your palate. What can I say? It’s addictive.
(Do you love chocolate as much as Jasmin? Take a look at Jasmin Chew – recipe for chocolate soil!)
There was a time when I proposed so many chocolate desserts on the menu that Christopher Millar, my mentor and Executive Chef, had to get me to cut back and create a more “balanced” menu. So you know if I had my way, I’ll be a doing a full-on chocolate menu!
I met a lot of powerhouse pastry chefs during my training there, which was an opportunity I wish we could have more of. I always prefer forging friendships by working alongside fellow chefs over networking events that involve chatting and awkward laughter.
Being in a chocolate school also meant being engrossed in more detail regarding the main ingredient. Knowing your ingredient inside out is the key to saving/ changing/ altering it because you understand its reactions.
How do you think your studies in graphic design have influenced your work in the kitchen?
Unsurprisingly, I find that my background in graphic design and my work in the kitchen go hand in hand. I took modules in photography, illustrations and fine art, which allowed me to hone my skills in drafting, sculpting, framing, colouring and composition. My studies have given me a keen eye for detail and a steady hand to execute them.
How does being Singaporean influence your work as a pastry chef?
I use plenty of local or Asian flavours to mix things up. I think society is now so much more open to new and exciting flavours and that’s a godsend to us chefs! There is absolutely nothing wrong with being classic, I’m sure that will be back in trend again soon, but I’m enjoying my time in the present where I get to be experimental.
How would you describe the pastry/dessert scene in Singapore? Is it different from in Australia, for example?
In the past it was quite different. However, nowadays I find the lines blurring. We now have pastry shops in Singapore that have roots in different parts of the world. Local powerhouse pastry chefs are also giving rise to amazing creations that’s easily accessible to the public. Even our food carts have evolved.
What’s the dessert you’re most proud of in your years as a pastry chef?
Hard to pick one as it’s always changing, but I’m proud of all my creations, actually! It would usually be something pivoting at that point of time, whether it’s a flavour or a show stopper, or a technique that others haven’t caught up to yet. Like fashion, things get outdated once it gets popularized. We’re always trying to strive to stay ahead in the game.
If I had to pick one now, it would be my Wildflower dessert. It was created for the Asian Masters 2018, an 8-hands dinner held at Morsels. The dessert consists of kaffir lime leaf curd, meringue infused with the aromas of wildflowers, and hazelnut butter cremeux, all sandwiched between a flaky thin coconut biscuit and served with raw wild honey from Singapore’s local bee farm in Seletar. It’s now available on our a la carte menu in Stellar at 1-Altitude.
Thank you, Jasmin!