Kitchen Stories

February 22, 2015 § Leave a comment

We sat in a cafe near the Central Business District, high sky scrapers and people in office suits walking pass us as we spoke about our little idea and commongrounds. We brained storm on words and how to connect the dots. We told ourselves (23/01/2013) that this might make or break us, but gave it a shot. But it came about well, so well.

We are emotional beings. With attachments hard to separate from the past and present. With decisions based on sense or sensibility. Innate beings who take the next move even with preconscious based on the heart and thoughts. These were our trigger points to create something related with what we do daily, eating. Though some of us may not cook/bake daily, at some point we step into the zone of a stove, sink, and fridge. Perhaps making something for ourselves, to keep our bodies going or feeding someone special to put a smile on their face.

Elodie and I often share our experience of food and cooking. We love what we do daily with food (photography, shopping for ingredients, exploring cooking methods etc, feeding people and sharing). We wanted to draw the connection between food and moods to bring an awareness of how they are interdependent. We want to bring people together and share their experiences so we can learn from them and perhaps even cook a few dish or two.

So finally after two years of working on it, here is our work, Kitchen Stories.

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We launched it in Kinokuniya Singapore on 14th Feb and got great support from family and friends. Thank you so much for everyone who turned up. I will be selling it at Necessary Provisions and Elodie will sell it on her website. It is also available on Page One and Bloesom .

My hopes for readers are that they understand what keeps them craving for the certain food, and making the same thing when they have that particular feeling or occasion. It is also that they look beyond the dish in front of them and take a deeper thought to how it came about. The person who made it, the way its been done and how it came together. They always say less is more, but truly, there is so much more than what is seem or may be. Happy reading,please drop us a line or two about your thoughts and your own kitchen stories.

going the distance

January 31, 2015 § Leave a comment

Once in a while we get into a limbo with the path we are on, this limbo has been getting on this path for a while now. The roller coaster ride is rather unenjoyable and I have been facing the effects (think head spinning or throwing up kind of symptom). Worse still, dragging people along with the ride.

Have you ever been attached before? Was it emotionally supportive? Was it honest? Did you seek comfort in it or find difficulty in the differences? What I meant by “attached” doesn’t narrow to a boy/girl relationship but personal bond with another human being or collective group. A caregiver, parents, lover, siblings, mates or what other noun you want to give it.

We all form attachments very differently. I read in an article that we experience pure emotions for the first seven years of our lives. Babies pick up emotions from their surroundings and act out according for the rest of their lives. Of course this being said, it isn’t exactly the same because of changes in environments but will not differ far from.

These days, I have been searching for explinations and answers to many events. Seeking for assurance and completion to what is and how it came about.

The environment I grew up in was quite a typical Chinese family. Bread winners, family dinners, sports, academics. We spoke about things for sure, sometimes they were cast aside for more rational decisions, sometimes they were taken heed of and supported. It was good and bad. There were both sides. They were not always balance. They were like, a roller coaster ride.

I got tired of it and as soon as I could get out of it, I did. Little did I know, I got myself into another one. The trend follows, as you can read.

The awareness of wanting to get off the ride so be on a smoother one took a while to shape. First there was understanding, then seeking for answers from any directions and persistency to keep asking, then realizing it can only be fixed with grace, time and plenty of attention.

It is quite common in our culture to dismiss feelings for more “important” developments. So we reveal less to people to avoid arguments or heated discussions. We get by with doing things together here and there, ticking the box off the lists and so on. But what may seem to be neglected snow balls, and soon we all drift apart. I did for sure. I was a teenager just like anyone else, seeking for acceptance and approval from home and society. I went about, experiencing them in different levels with an open heart and mind. Hoping to find depth/growth or sense of security in differences rather than separated.

Some lie or hide to avoid conflict but it just creates a debit in the relationship bank everytime that is done. And sometimes, putting the credit bank takes twice the effort. It doesnt have to be seen or act out in front of the other, but something one does when you think the other doesn’t know/ You see that is the beauty of trust and respect in an intimate strong relationship.

Relationships, the very good ones, are not easy. If they are, there won’t be so many heart breaks, separations or any matter of that kind. It is quite interesting to believe that human beings have been living for so many centuries and yet we still find books, researchers, further analysis and solutions to fix behaviours.

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I see family come and dine at the shop. You see the ones that talk, laugh and share; then the others that get fixed on their devices because there is nothing to talk about. The later more than the former. It is so natural for us sometimes to deflect something we don’t want to deal with, and move that attention to things. Shopping (a guilty pleasure for ladies), eating, gaming, cars, devices and so on. We just stop caring, thinking why should we when the other doesn’t.

I think we care we just don’t know how to show it. We have different ways of showing and the way of showing is so important to the other. Because everyone receives love differently.

That differences if can be overcome and understood, with sacrifices and a bit of more salt, can be quite delicious.

I found a quote my brother read somewhere: if you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together. For someone ten years younger than me, I hope he remembers it ten years later. We need to slow down and understand each other a bit more before moving on.

better late than never

January 16, 2015 § Leave a comment

It took me a while to realize this, but like they say “better late than never”.

There’s always been a grandeur in chasing dreams, a somewhat deep seated sense of fulfillment to be part of the kitchen. It has always been about making simple food with great ingredients to make a lovely meal for everyone to gather around the table and enjoy each others’ company.
I have experienced real connection with people in this trade. Real connection without technology. Real sincerity without an agenda. People who put their heart into this and stick to it; people who thought it was for them and get stuck in between.

I got stuck in between. The world may seem like black and white but most of the time it is grey. The two colours are extreme, and by extreme I meant it is almost impossible to put a label. A few years ago, I wanted a pastry degree. I love baking, writing, photographing and getting to know people’s perspectives/experiences with food. Many wanted to be chefs, well most of them. They wanted to run a kitchen, a food business or be the next celebrity chef. Wanting to be noticed, wanting to be heard and wanted people to enjoy the food we make. No matter how big or small prerogatives were we had one thing in common, we love food.

Over the years, I keep stumbling onto pebbles and rocks. Walking into crossroads, taking off in directions based on what is felt right, perhaps not the most sensible decision at that time but paid off with time and effort. While writing on the side and helping out in the kitchen, I’d applied to journalism school. I wanted to write more than I wanted to be in the kitchen. I was so scared I couldn’t get in, I stayed up many nights re-writing the essays, asking for testimonials and recommendation letters. When the offer came, I rejected it. Not once, but twice.

Priorities changed, I placed the relationship ahead. It took a while to adjust as anything goes. Good things take time, great things take more time and effort.

The cookbook we have been writing for months will be out soon. It took a while, as anything goes. I feel a sense of relief but also nervous for what will entail next. Others have chapter two, mine just begun. I wanted a clean slate two years ago, leave town, get a recognized degree, come back and be more permanently desired. But I pushed that option, put more things on my plate then i could digest and got overweight with responsibilities.

Was it a wrong choice? Was it all worth it? I started to question and question. I needed answers and assurance. The confidence faded and turned into insecurity. So the thoughts of standing up for anything were forgotten. But as this cookbook comes to a close, I slowly understood what everything is about and how they are coming together.

I never wanted anything more than just be a cook or baker who writes. The daily essentials of being present to life, looking into each others eyes have real conversations, and taste food we ought to.

I fear for the day we forget how respect one another and worse still take each other for granted. That day will come, but for now, I can only do my best to be present and hope others can do their part too.

this will never be officially published

January 8, 2015 § 2 Comments

so here it is, a short passage for the faint hearted

Tonight’s heart has a vague overcast. It bears worries and tiredness from a day’s routine, of trying to just be a normal human being and to get by what is normal. In this lonely evening, there lies a peculiar sentiment of lost. Floating like an empty boat on a quiet river with a deep current moving swiftly down the slippery slopes. Even though it flows with the course of nature, of what seems to be one of the most beautiful rhythm in life, it yearns a purpose. A meaning for its every movement and gesture, a subjective cause to a significant effect, a genteel pleasure to a given pain, along with a sweet misery for a dramaturgical end.

Tonight’s moon is bright. It beams with hope and light that cannot be foreseen but hope to achieve. It’s full and trustworthy beyond measures but gradually fades back and forth with the misty clouds. Like the heart, it wants to shine but with the overcast it can only wait for a slight wind to blow the clouds away. Until then, it sits discreetly, long to be noticed while watching the world get by. People of all sorts gather and separate between empty spaces; taking flight to flee fear or fighting for the heart’s longing; swoon over delicate memories; to finally whispering to each other romantic words in the fading hours of reviving twilight. Would they know that there will not be anymore?

Tonight, whilst holding on dearly to the moments: seemingly sincere and quite pure, light laughters and sad happiness, it is too dark for faith. So the earth looks up and soaks in luna’s sheer essences. It finds redemption in fine melodies and sense in imperfections, an appetite to satisfy till satiate. There it shares the last glimpse of brightness, the last dance in the fleeting instant of overwhelming truth, yearning for a tender appreciation not given until the sun rises upon the horizon.

london 2014

December 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

I have been struggling with this post for a couple of days. I thought about penning 2014 while flying to London, which seems to be too long ago but in actual fact it has only been a week.

This perhaps will be the last entry for the year. And what a year it has been. Sounds like I had said this before but looking back, it feels creating series of multi layer facades. The changes in the shop, the cookbook, my perspectives with life and people around me.

The year did not start very nicely. I was still recovering from an NSAID allergies reaction which was an unforgettable experience not to be visit again. The late sleepless nights, endless amounts of aloe vera, calamine lotions and anti-histamine pills. I still managed to bake in the kitchen, wrote a few food articles and cooked a dinner for the cookbook.

Of course, all these only came about with the help of my other half, co-writer, the crew at work and family members. Everyone gave a hand in the kitchen, helped out at the Jovial Event and walked away with a happy belly.

We continued shooting photographs and testing recipes for the rest of the year. While getting caught up in the kitchen and trying to get more helping hands, we were still figuring out the book title, introductions and so on. The days continued to unfold and just in a blink of an eye we are going to be in 2015.

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Things that happened in 2014:
Dad got a puppy, found a yoga and running buddy, went to Hong Kong, still writing a cookbook, almost lost a finger while slicing potatoes, went to Sydney, lost a friend from liver cancer, we worked 72 hours one crazy week, had a gastroenterology scope, had the best birthday surprise, went to UK, visited Old Trafford, ate at Amber, Andre & Dinner by Heston, found the best chee chong fun (rice noodles) in Singapore (well for now), and moved in together.

There are a few lessons learnt, few things that matter really closely to the heart that needed letting go of and moving on.

“stop trying to look for happiness in the same place you lost it”

There is reminiscing and there is dwelling. And I dwell in places, time, moments that should or should not. It has taken more than I thought to let these be where they ought to be. In notebooks, pictures, at dinner tables, quiet rainy days, yoga mats, morning runs or even on the trains/buses.

I just hope that the next year would be less of these and more of creating better memories, sharing love and caring for one another.

looking beyond

November 10, 2014 § Leave a comment

It’s been a while since I last wrote here. It’s also been a really long while since I felt happy about myself. We’ve been working many hours in the kitchen. While we try to create a balanced life, there seems to be less of a balance and more of a struggle.

Recently, we launched Sunday Feast. A communal way of eating whereby a vegetarian soup is accompanied by either a meat or vegetarian dish, finished with a dessert. Everything is made from scratch. Handmade tortilla, vegetable stock for the soups/risottos, puff pastries and maple butter. Thus we start prep on Wednesday and take every opportunity we have between services to chop, slice, proof, stew and so on for the weekend feast.

The idea this started from an experience G had in a very small cafe in Belgium. There was the basic simplicity of it, sincerity of produce and effort put into the meals. There was also the trust that customers would embrace the family meal.

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The responses have been amazing. Regulars are taking the approach with an open heart and most importantly a good appetite. After every Sunday, they look forward to the next. And after every Sunday, we get more inspired to do more and explore our culinary ideas. And after every Sunday shift, we get really tipsy at our favourite bar and sleep in until the sun shines brightly through the curtains.

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There have been days when our differences meet and they just don’t want to get along. No matter how hard you try and no matter how hard to put yourselves into other’s shoes, to look at their perspectives and give the benefit of the doubt. They disappoint. Is it the lack of understanding or expectations we put on each other? Is it the irrational thoughts or simply just stubbornness of everyone to get their own way?

No matter how close parallel lines travel together or how much they share in common, they will never meet, have any intersections and commonplace. But when lines meet, that is where the complications begin. There are bigger things to look forward to. There is a common goal. The little things may seem niggling and unpleasant. But can we all look beyond that?

2341, 17 hours shift, 5 hours sleep

October 4, 2014 § Leave a comment

Great restaurants should not define things, they should be the catalyst for things to happen – Jeremy King

It’s quite late now. I have to be up in a couple of hours to bake for the cafe later. But there like the inkling of a bad cake that came out of the oven, I am eager to share this. The last two weeks have been a struggle. Heck, the last year has been. It’s been a turmoil of bad representations, perspectives, lack of passion and interest on a whole.

I remember having a goal to work towards to. To create a space for people to feel comfortable, to be part of the community, to embrace our presences like we take theirs. These days, I question the respect, the craft we hold so dearly to ourselves and how are we going to share that understanding without creating any hostility.

We stand our grounds of trying to make work personal. To not draw lines. To take pleasure in laughing at each other’s flaws, but get work done. To treat one another like brothers or sisters, share food over the table and build strong bonds. Not to say there aren’t any right this moment. In fact, if anything I’d learnt the last couple of days during my 17 hours shift was people loved the bonds we have. It is true that while we try to want to make others feel welcomed and comfortable, we want them to join us.

After being in the kitchen for a year, it was so refreshing to be a buzzer again. People took on the jokes, suggestions and little banters so well. They just feel so at home and I could feel the sense of belonging once again. The little ounce of hope took a leap of faith. The faith in knowing we are doing our best to keep it together.

I could barely stay awake today. But auntie came by again and made lunch. While we were all in our grumpy moods, she bared with us in the silent kitchen and made us her usual homemade dishes.

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Another great quote from René Redzepi

“…trusting our impulses and handling our failures well. what’s certainly made a big impact is how much better we’ve become at collaborating with each other. in our business you’re always taught that there’s one captain who makes the decisions, and that’s how I used to run this place. but now the cooks no longer act like little soldiers, uncritically ready to obey any command. this has made everybody stronger and more confident. I realized people can only be as good as they’re allowed to be.”

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New kitchen hours next week. New Sunday menu and desserts are up! It’s going to be a quite a ride from here on.

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