Sandro Falbo, an Italian Chef in Singapore..
..for more than 7 years, with his last station as Executive Chef of The Fullerton Hotel & The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, about his experiences in Singapore.
Chef Sandro Falbo originally from Rome, with a worldwide gastronomy career over 31 years in prestigious restaurants and five-star hotels in Italy, England, America, Africa, Middle East and China.
An Italian helmed kitchens in Africa
Chef Falbo first entered the culinary world in Rome, where he specialized in Italian cuisine. With a passion to bring his craft to a wider audience, he uprooted himself and helmed the kitchens of renowned restaurants in Madagascar and Cape Town, as well as the internationally lauded Bertorellis Restaurant in London.
Other stations have been for example Executive Chef – Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Speciality/Executive Sous Chef – Conrad Hotels & Resorts Hongkong, Speciality/Executive Sous Chef – Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts – Bahamas.
The way to become a chef
As the Executive Chef of The Fullerton Hotel and The Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore, Chef Falbo helmed a culinary team overseeing a total of eight restaurants and bars, as well as banquet and catering events.
What drove you to become a chef?
It’s a long story. I just love being in the kitchen, it started from a young age. I still love doing to this day, it is my favourite place in the house and in my professional life I love wearing white! I feel comfortable.
Where did you learn to become a chef?
I started in Rome, where I attended the hotel school of hoteliers. However, school gives you just a framework and guidelines, working in hotels and restaurants mould you and this is where you really learn and gain your valuable experience on being a chef.
I love travelling and learning different types of cuisine. I have been travelling and working as a chef from the age of 18 I worked and travelled through Europe, Africa/Middle East, the US/Bahamas. Once I left the Middle East I moved to Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and last of all Singapore – the longest I have lived/worked anywhere.
His experience in Singapore
How did you get the chance to move to Singapore?
I had the chance to be transferred from my previous company and also a promotion, which was a great opportunity.
What was your first impression of Singapore?
HOT!!! I’m joking I had visited Singapore before and I had loved the greenery and the food scene here. How green and great food.
Freshness and very good ingrediencies are the base for Singapore food; which is somehow similar to Italy. What is still a different in Singapore and Italien ingrediencies?
Singapore can get ingredients from all around the world, definitely the big difference is the price.
Italian food in Singapore: is it the same as in Italy or adopted to the Singaporean taste?
Many restaurants are the same, as they are run by traditional Italians and others like to follow their own style.
Which Singapore dish would you not be able to cook by yourself with satisfaction results?
Chaque que tiao noodle, I could make but it may not be the best.
The idea of an own restaurant in Singapore
If you would open your own restaurant; where it would be and which specialisation?
I would love to open a restaurant in Singapore and would love ME cuisine. These will be the dishes that I’ve learnt through my travels and will be influenced by Italian food.
Singapore is THE melting pot for all kind of restaurants/ food from all over the world: is there still a niche for a new restaurant type/ concept/ from other regions of the world?
Yes, I believe Singaporeans love to continue to explore and if it’s done right, I’m sure there would be a chance for new concepts and restaurants from other regions.
Since you worked and work in big hotel groups; how does the kitchen has changed in the last years (in sense of what is being offered)?
Well definitely new technology has been introduced which makes a chef’s life easier and more productive for eg: the fancy combi oven, dehydrator. Also, more variety in food on offer, more wide range of ingredients and cuisine from other countries.
The Michelin awarded a Street Food place in China Town Singapore. Have you been there? And what makes his chicken different from the other “1000” street food chickens in Singapore?
Yes, I’ve been to Mr Chan’s Hawker place and I had his signature soy chicken. I believe that he puts a very nice herb mixture in to his soya sauce mixture. He has done a few functions with me in the Hotel and I really love his Soy Chicken and his chilli sauce.
How is your experience work in a kitchen team in Singapore compared to Italy?
Each kitchen has its own style. In Italy we have people working from various regions of Italy, also here in Singapore the staff is made up of Singaporeans, Malay, Chinese and Indians. So, in both countries you are working with a team of people with different styles of cooking and different cultures. You must learn to work and get along well, because it is fundamental in a kitchen that all get along and work well in a team.
What are the new trends/ tendency in the Singapore kitchen?
Definitely Singapore is driven by the aesthetics of food. There are a lot of new, young and talented chefs here in Singapore. There is a big revival of the local cuisine. Many local chefs are standing out with amazing cooking, like Malcolm from Candlenut Kitchen (http://comodempsey.sg/restaurant/candlenut) and also Jason Tan and also Damian D’Silva.
Is it hard to work a foreign chef in Singapore? What is your recommendation for a young European chef wants to work in Singapore?
To tell the truth I think it’s hard to be a chef no matter where in the world you are. My recommendation would be to get as much experience prior, you need to quite strong as its very competitive here and the chefs are very well trained and talented here. Once here you will need to be humble, open minded and a good team worker.
Which foreign food/ kitchen is mostly appreciated in Singapore?
I think Japanese as Singaporeans love to travel to Japan experience their culture and cuisine and appreciate having it here at home. Italian for sure is also very popular and lately there are more and more Korean restaurants popping up. I believe Singaporeans love their meat and fish.
Cooking schools in Singapore: are they open for foreigners as well and how many years they study?
There are a few great cooking schools here in Singapore and they work very closely with hotels and restaurants. They do very good on the job training which is very useful for the students. I believe it would be 3 years but I’m not sure off hand. They are open to foreigners.
Thanks for the interview and the insides.