Magdalene Tang is the pioneering Chef-Owner of Mag’s Wine Kitchen in Singapore
Magdalene Tang is the pioneering Chef-Owner of Mag’s Wine Kitchen in Singapore. After 23 years, she has now relocated her restaurant to new premises in the trendy Keong Saik enclave, but she still serves the same heart-warming Modern French fare paired with an exceptional list of wines.
Affectionately known as Mag, this talented chef took the leap from banking in 1996 to pursue her passion and open Mag’s Wine Kitchen. She had an early start with cooking, helping her Peranakan grandmother in the kitchen, and this kindled in her a love for sharing the simple joys of enjoying a meal and great conversation.
Deciding not to play by the usual restaurant rules, Mag opened what was then a novel concept in Singapore: a wine bistro with an open-kitchen dining space. She was also one of the country’s first female chef-restaurateurs, and is now a role model and mentor to aspiring chefs.
We chat to Chef Mag about her smart new venue, giving French dishes an unusual twist, and how she would like to see the Singaporean dining scene change.
So, Mag, how do you see your new Mag’s Wine Kitchen space as evolving your restaurant?
After 23 successful years at our former home on Circular Road, I figured it was time to breathe new life into the restaurant and find ourselves a new home. With Keong Saik Road being such a reputed stretch for great dining, I found it to be an ideal location to begin our new chapter.
Our current location is more spacious, which not only gives us a bigger kitchen to create in, but also allows us to create a larger 7-metre long chef’s table for our guests, so that more of them are able to opt for such an intimate dining experience close to our chefs. We also have a walk-in wine cellar that truly showcases our love for wines.
Why did you decide to integrate a chef’s table into the restaurant?
I was actually the first to introduce a chef’s table dining format in Singapore back in our previous location at Circular Road. I think it’s a great way to induce camaraderie, and it creates a dining experience that doesn’t seem too formal, and kind of fun for people who want to watch the kitchen in action.
Furthermore, the dining experience I want to create at Mag’s is all about home-style hospitality – creating an intimate and personalised dining experience akin to dining in a home. I think a chef’s table is one of the best ways to achieve that kind of atmosphere.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Modern French comfort food elevated by sophisticated touches that tell the stories from my culinary journey. For me, it is always about honesty and respecting the integrity of the ingredients, so I like to emphasise the use of seasonal produce and make everything that I can from scratch. There are no
shortcuts for me when it comes to cooking.
How do you balance offering French comfort food with providing something exciting for today’s diner?
I think it’s the way we approach modern French food. We respect the classic techniques of the cuisine, but we are also constantly finding innovative ways to elevate our food, either through different ingredient pairings, modern techniques of cooking, or with the way we present each dish.
As an extension of our home-style hospitality, I might also serve up surprise dishes from the kitchen a la minute, which guests would probably find exciting for each visit.
Please describe two dishes in which you give French dishes an unusual twist.
While our menu changes often, one of our mainstays, the Whole Duckling, is a good example of my different approach to French food. The dish is the only one of its kind served in Singapore. We use a whole French duckling, and braise it lightly for three hours Teochew-style. We serve the duckling in a very rich broth, and with Nocerella olives.
What are some of the unusual ingredients you use?
Rather than unusual, we tend to use unconventional ingredients that are not commonly seen in classic French cuisine. For instance, we use lots of Japanese sauces like sudachi.
Where do you source your ingredients?
We source our ingredients from all over the world, wherever offers the ingredients we seek that are at the peak of their season.
How would you say the Singaporean dining scene has developed over the years?
Over the years, I think Singapore has drawn a lot of aspiring chefs from countries all over the world, and this has resulted in a very varied dining scene and a large pool of talent. Not only is there a diverse mix of cuisines for people to explore, but diners here can also enjoy different dining experiences, from accessibly priced and casual eateries, to fine dining options.
How would you like the dining scene to change?
I hope that we can continue to work towards making the industry more attractive for young talents, both on the culinary front as well as service.
I’ve also observed a very strong emphasis on the importance of restaurants achieving awards in order to remain sustainable – I hope diners will support restaurants not simply because of the number of awards they have, but because of their high standard of food, drinks and service.
Thank you, Chef Mag, and all the best with the new rendition of Mag’s Wine Kitchen.
Located in the thriving F&B precinct on Keong Saik Road, Mag’s Wine Kitchen is a destination where Chef-Owner Mag shares her passion for conversations, cooking and wine. The menu showcases modern French cooking, and each dish encapsulates a backstory that tells of Mag’s personal food journey. This is complemented by a diverse collection of wines, including favourites from Mag’s own collection. Guests can immerse themselves in the spirit of Mag’s signature home-style hospitality – generous, genuine and guest-first, always.
For aspiring chefs looking to work with Chef Mag, visit www.magswinekitchen.com