What is your food philosophy? "When you are young, you eat to live. When you are old, you live to eat. A balanced lifestyle and diet is [the philosophy] I live by. Fish and vegetables are essential on my plate. But as a chef I want to take people on a journey of different flavours, blending French and Asian cuisines. My beef is prepared using French techniques. When I cook fish the sauce is very light - a light flavour is elegant. I don't use MSG or heavy soy-based sauces. My food must be simple and balanced. Freshness is important to me and, with my food, you can taste every ingredient in the dish."
What is your favourite ingredient? "The truffle. I love the flavours of fresh truffles. I let nature talk to my diners by using simple preparation methods, such as shaving truffle in thin slices on the food. Yellow sweet potato is another favourite ingredient because of its taste, and it is also an antioxidant. I love Southeast Asian tropical fruits, such as mango and pineapple. My top choice is soursop, which has anti-cancer properties and is ideal for making dessert."
Have you had any disasters while cooking for VIPs? "Only once, when the oven didn't work, so I could not prepare the soufflés for dessert. I had to make a chocolate mousse on the spot."
What is the difference between cooking for VIPs and ordinary diners? "When I cook for [foreign] VIPs and delegates, I never have raw food on my menu. I make simple, tasty food and eliminate their worry about getting food poisoning while adjusting to a different time zone. At Sky on 57 [the restaurant at the Marina Bay Sands hotel, in Singapore, where Quek is executive chef] European guests enjoy simple food with an Asian touch. I keep records of what regulars eat and check the database before they arrive, which is what a doctor would do."
Tell us about your relationship with late Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew. "Since 1993, for 21 years, every time Mr Lee celebrated his birthday, I would organise his birthday dinner. No matter where I was in the world, I would fly back to Singapore and do that. I am honoured to have been able to cook for him. He liked salads and fish, and ate lots of fruit, with no butter or cream in his food. He was very disciplined."
What other projects are you working on? "This May I took a trip to Cognac, in France, to come up with a menu mixing French and Asian culinary elements [in celebration of] the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the nation of Singapore. I am in the process of making a range of my own sauces, including a satay marinade, curry paste, sambal and chilli-sesame and coriander dip. This is all in the pipeline [and aimed at spreading] my cuisine across the globe. I will continue to mentor young cooks and students because I want to teach them the basic skills. I believe if you understand the foundations then you can cook well."
How do you unwind? "I travel with my family and take my son to see things. Last year we went to Alba, Italy, to eat truffles. I like to stay outdoors because I like nature and cycling."
What is your ultimate festive feast? "I like to cook and entertain guests at my home. This Chinese New Year, I prepared a hot pot meal. Barbecue is another alternative; I usually marinate my own meat. I go to the market with my son and he helps me out in the kitchen."
If you were to master a new cuisine, which would it be? "I want to learn more about Chinese cuisine. I know some techniques for creating dim sum but not how to make stir-fry. Cantonese and other Chinese cuisines are very complex, with different seasonings for different dishes. Hong Kong's local fast food is OK but I prefer to learn haute cuisine. Indian cuisine is my second choice - if I went to India I would be very inspired by their use of spices."
Grace M.W. Wong