In the kitchen with Cure’s Andrew Walsh

We talk food philosophy and branching out into Ember Beach Club

Photography by Dalton Lim

Chef Andrew Walsh is quite the formidable badass in the kitchen. He moves with confidence and grace, as he calls out for ingredients, then plates delicate slices of radishes with a steady hand. But he isn’t just a head chef running a kitchen, he’s a restauranteur and businessman running three establishments in Singapore: Cure, Butcher Boy and Bao Boy.

His culinary career has seen him work under some of the world’s greatest chefs, such as Richard Corrigan and Jason Atherton, whom he now considers a friend who mentored him when he wanted to branch out on his own. The Irish chef is now known as one of the first chefs in Singapore to introduce ‘bistronomy’, which champions exceptional food in an unpretentious, ‘come as you are’ manner.

It’s no wonder One&Only Desaru Coast appointed him to lead and execute Ember Beach Club, the ultra-luxury beachfront retreat’s barbecue and grill. Ember is the hallmark of Walsh’s cooking style – using the art of barbecue to create light and clean dishes infused with Asian flavours.

As we wait for the opening of One&Only Desaru Coast, Chef Walsh dishes out his take on food with Jetgala.

What’s your philosophy towards food?
I’m a restauranteur and a business owner so I am more about the creative process. I’m a creative director in terms of everything in the restaurant – plate ware, chopsticks, napkins, even picking the art on the wall, working with the designer for the concept of the restaurant and the music playlist. Food is just one proportion of it.

But as a chef, I believe in sustainability, utilising everything that we get and respecting the ingredient. I strive for zero wastage. In my kitchen, every bone is roasted for broth or sauce; every vegetable peeling is used or composted. Even the charcoal we use for grilling is infused into oil. My head chefs are instructed to check the bins to make sure nothing is going in that can be used.

What’s an ingredient you want to work with?
There isn’t anything I really want to get my hands on, but I do miss living somewhere like in Ireland or in London, near the countryside because of that foraging aspect – picking wild fruits, berries, leaves, nuts, herbs. My forager in London used to bring in stuff and I would ask ‘what is that?’ but that would get you thinking and tasting and recreating.

When multiple restaurants are helmed under the name of a well-known chef like yourself, how do you ensure consistent quality?
If a restaurant carries your name, it carries your reputation and you can’t buy a reputation, you can only build it. There is a certain amount of nervousness giving your name to something, but I have pure trust in my team because they’re very well trained and the recipes are very disciplined – down to the millilitre and the gram and even the methods. I may not be there [at Ember], but my presence will be there. We’re calling and Skyping every day to build a relationship with my team.

What was your inspiration for the menu at Ember?
When I went there and saw the plans of the space, straight away, I saw beach barbecue vibes. Then when I contemplated on that and the equipment itself – Jospers, grills, charcoal – it broke down to what was the best produce I could get? We’re using sustainable, local fish and local vegetables from a farm in Cameron Highlands. I wanted to be in a repertoire of my own food that I do myself. I have French techniques and a repertoire of Asian ingredients and sauces that I want to do in a very communal setting.

I actually enjoyed creating the menu. I think the toughest part of the process is in delivering. The dishes are there and the recipes have been formulated, but that’s only one part of the jigsaw, there’s a lot more pieces to fill in there.

What’s your favourite dish on the Ember menu?
The first is Japanese scallops dressed in a white soy ponzu sauce. It’s light, full of umami, and you have texture with the radishes and herbs. The second is what I would like to eat there myself. It’s a take on lobster and frites: locally sourced lobster cooked on a grill that is continuously basted in brown butter with lemon juice for that kick of citrus and then topped with a house XO sauce. The sauce goes back to my belief in zero wastage, where roe from the scallops are dehydrated, then chopped up into the XO sauce. That for me is worth a visit in itself.

Dining out by staying in
With the current COVID-19 situation, dining in is no longer an option, but diners can still get a taste of Cure, Butcher Boy and Bao Boy right at home. Head over to curesingapore.com, butcherboy.com.sg and baoboy.sg for islandwide delivery and to support Chef Andrew Walsh and his team.