Chef André Chiang opens up about giving back Michelin stars, calling it an easy decision after feeling he’d reached perfection
41-year-old whose eponymous Restaurant André in Singapore will close in February says he wants to spend more time learning about Taiwanese culture and Chinese cuisines, and to help young Chinese chefs get to the top
Top Singapore chef André Chiang says the decision to close Restaurant André and give back his two Michelin stars – which has shocked the culinary world – was an easy one to make.
Opening up about his October 10 announcement, Chiang told the South China Morning Post there was no single reason behind it.
“It’s a personal decision. I was born in Taiwan and left when I was 13. So the past 30 years I have been away in Japan, South Africa, France and Singapore.
“I always feel there’s a part of me missing that I don’t know much about Asia. It’s important for me to know more about where I came from.”
The 41-year-old was speaking in Hong Kong, where he will serve his signature dish Memory on Friday evening to guests at the Master Chef Dinner, part of the Wine&Dine Festival on the Central harbourfront.
Featuring warm foie gras jelly with black truffle coulis, the dish he created 20 years ago will soon be a memory itself. A couple of thousand lucky diners from among the 7,000 who swamped Restaurant Andre’s website with reservation requests in the days following his announcement will get to savour the dish before last orders are called on February 14.
One of the reasons he cites for closing the contemporary French fine-dining restaurant – rated second on the Asia’s 50 Best 2017 list – is his desire to focus more on Raw, the restaurant he opened in Taipei in 2014 where everything is local, from the ingredients to the coffee, tea and decor.
“I want to spend more time learning about Taiwanese culture and ingredients. I haven’t even been to the south of Taiwan before and the islands around it,” Chiang says.
He wants to know more about China too. “I’ve been planning a big trip to visit all the top Chinese masters in different cuisines, Sichuan, Shanghai, Yunnan throughout the year … I want to understand more of the culture. Next month I’ll do a dialogue with a master of Sichuan cuisine in Chengdu. There’s no cooking, just dialogue.”
He offers another perspective on the closure of Restaurant Andre: coming from an artistic family
– his father is a calligrapher, mother a chef, brother an actor, and sister a fashion designer – he sees his six restaurants in Singapore, Taiwan and Paris as individual creations.
“They all start with a white canvas and you paint every detail in it the way you want it. And every creation has a moment [where] you feel it’s perfect, [that you’re] not going to touch it any more. That’s how I feel about it.
“It took me 10 years to create Restaurant André and I’m very happy with what it is.”
But, having won two Michelin stars, wasn’t he tempted to go after a third?
“That’s not my purpose in life,” he replies. “When you create a dish you know when to stop.” The moment was as perfect as he could have wanted, he says.
As well as learning more about Chinese cuisine himself, Chiang is keen to help the next generation.
“I have been asking myself why? There are so many great chefs in China and Asia, why is there only one André? It’s because of the training. I hope I can contribute more to that,” he says.
“I’m the only Chinese [chef] to make the list of the World’s 50 Best restaurants. I don’t have a solid plan, but is there anything I can do to help young Chinese chefs?
“When I mean training, it’s not just techniques, but about flavour, structure, colour and creativity. All these make a great chef. It’s more of an exchange. I want to learn more about Chinese culture and at the same time I want to share with the next generation. I want to see 10 Andrés on the list.”
While Restaurant André will close, Chiang has a new concept in mind for the site in Singapore’s Tanjong Pagar district, on top of three new projects for 2018. He won’t divulge any details, however.
After his research into Chinese cuisines, will Chiang develop his own style of Chinese cuisine? “That would really take Chinese cuisine to another level and I’m happy and willing to be the window. That’s my priority,” he says.