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Ex-banker LG Han hustled laborious to launch his personal enterprise.
With no formal coaching within the culinary arts, the native chef has launched certainly one of Singapore’s most iconic eating places.
Based in 2014, Labyrinth is an outlet for “self-expression” that pays homage to a life rising up amongst Singapore’s verdant meals tradition.
The award-winning, three-time Michelin-starred restaurant is lauded as one of many prime eating places in Singapore, if not the world.
The restaurant additionally has a sister gastro-bar idea named Miss Vanta that was attributable to launch earlier this 12 months, although its opening was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Labyrinth’s menu at the moment boasts distinctive twists on Singaporean fare which incorporates “Bak Chor Mee, No Bak Chor, No Mee,” produced from Hokkaido scallop and Jurong fishery squid; to “Ah Hua Kelong Garoupa”, produced from selfmade fish paste noodles and fish milk.
From Banker To Chef
Cooking was by no means one thing LG Han anticipated to do professionally.
The ex-banker graduated from the London College of Economics (LSE) with an Honours in Finance and Accounting in 2009, and pursued a profitable profession in Goldman Sachs and Citibank merely to fulfil “household expectations”.
Picture Credit score: Beautiful Style
Nonetheless, hospitality and F&B had all the time been in his blood. LG Han’s grandfather ran a steak home on Cairnhill in Orchard Street, and his father labored within the company resort business for many of his life.
Certainly one of his largest influences was his grandmother, who was a implausible cook dinner and has a dish devoted to her on Labyrinth’s menu: “Ang Moh Rooster Rice”.
When he was a pupil in London, cooking grew to become a type of remedy for him — a ardour which might carry over properly into his profession within the monetary sector.
By the early 2010s, LG Han started apprenticing at Garibaldi, an Italian restaurant and bar. After a mind-numbing work week, his weekends have been devoted to the kitchen: cleansing flooring, fridges and doing prep work.
It was a tricky transition from house cooking.
“Ardour isn’t sufficient to be a chef,” says LG Han. “It is advisable to benefit from the professional cooking atmosphere, which will be mentally and bodily gruelling.”
“(However) I favored the camaraderie, power and adrenaline on the superb eating degree, working with high-quality substances and highly-skilled cooks.”
Labyrinth: A Platform For Self-Expression
By 2012, LG Han give up his full-time job to pursue turning into knowledgeable chef full-time.
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It was a “nomadic journey”. To get his toes off the bottom, LG Han pulled out all stops: apprenticing at occasions organising non-public catering, even working for corporates.
He additionally attended cooking faculty for six months.
The ex-banker additionally helped to launch Tanuki Uncooked, a bar and restaurant serving fashionable Japanese delicacies.
Counting on the expertise he gained, LG Han started devising a plan for his personal enterprise.
The plan didn’t go with out hiccups. Initially, Labyrinth was meant to function underneath a ‘eating at midnight’ idea to boost consciousness for the visually handicapped, however his traders acquired chilly toes.
LG Han determined to maneuver ahead with an everyday restaurant as a substitute utilizing the menu he had already developed.
Bringing Singaporean Fare Again To Its Conventional Roots
Labyrinth is best-known for its “Mod-Sin” idea, clinching a Michelin star in 2017 and 2018 for its fashionable twist on Singaporean fare.
Picture Credit score: High quality Eating Lovers
Nonetheless, the restaurant pivoted away from the meals science idea in 2018 and refocused on recreating conventional Singaporean delicacies. The gamble paid off, successful Labyrinth one other Michelin star in 2019.
“We needed to outline Singaporean delicacies in a extra genuine method,” LG Han explains.
“Singaporean delicacies is all the time related to a time and place — how do you protect and really signify it? That’s extra thrilling than molecular gastronomy.”
Thus far, 70 to 80 per cent of the menu at Labyrinth depends on produce sourced from native farms like Ah Hua Kelong, Edible Backyard Metropolis and Crab Lovers Farm.
In line with LG Han, domestically sourced produce is more true to the substances utilized in authentic recipes, and carry their very own distinctive flavours. This contains produce like green-lipped mussels, native crops like ulam rajah and the wandering jew, in addition to domestically sourced cow and goat milk.
Labyrinth additionally makes use of conventional cooking strategies like gradual cooking, infusions and layering paired with fashionable expertise to realize genuine flavours.
“Kaya shouldn’t be meant to be clumpy, or it is going to have a synthetic style. Which means that it has been overly curdled, however (most kaya folks eat is produced from) substances thrown right into a bowl (thoughtlessly),” he elaborates.
“Correct kaya ought to be easy but textured, utilizing coconut, eggs, sugar and pure pandan. It is advisable to steam it gently on the range for 3 to 4 hours. (We make it ourselves at Labyrinth) with a secret step that nobody makes use of anymore.”
The restaurant additionally makes its personal prata dough from scratch and makes use of recent oysters for its in-house oyster sauce.
It depends on an enormous peer-to-peer community to uncover forgotten Singaporean recipes and methods, LG Han remarks, together with every part from shadowing hawkers to studying from house cooks.
Taking Singaporean Delicacies Worldwide
Since launching Labyrinth greater than six years in the past, LG Han has honed his culinary expertise travelling world wide, collaborating with prime cooks from nations like Taiwan, Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong.
“It’s all concerning the means to study,” he notes.
“There’s data you’ll by no means get entry to as a standard foodie. (Throughout the chef neighborhood), we’re proud and completely happy to show others — you may simply decide up a telephone and name somebody.”
Labyrinth is now on the peak of its sport. The following step for LG Han is to discover a approach to unfold Singaporean delicacies abroad.
“I’m working in direction of it (however) I don’t know the reply to that but,” he admits.
“How can we make Singaporean delicacies nice? How can we work collectively for our tiny nation? How can we act as ambassadors to convey conventional and distinctive Singaporean flavours overseas?”
Regardless, there’ll solely ever be one Labyrinth, asserts LG Han.
“I knew I’d by no means drive a Ferrari out of this enterprise. Perhaps a motorcycle — or bicycle,” says LG Han, laughing. “It’s not a goldmine.”
Featured Picture Credit score: Metropolis Nomads / Seth Lui
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