It's not unusual for one chef to ask another to write the foreword to his or her cookbook. Those who wrote the foreword for André Chiang's first cookbook, Octaphilosophy, were the twin brothers he worked for when he was just a commis chef in France - Jacques and Laurent Pourcel, of the three-Michelin-star Le Jardin des Sens, in Montpellier.
However, it is unusual for a chef's mother to write the introduction to his or her cookbook. In A Letter to My Son, Chiang's "Mama" writes about how proud she is, adding, "Watching you from a trainee, to today, where you run your brigade like a warrior to the point where you have created your own philosophy, I can now see in your food your uniqueness, passion and faith in believing in what you do and the strong message that you convey to your guests. I hope everyone who tastes your food can always feel the endless passion you have and enthusiasm that never stops. I hope they experience very carefully crafted detail, the design of each element and let every dish touch their heart and impact their life."
She concludes with a mother's typical concern, "Lastly, being such a busy man, you must always take good care of your health."
Each element of Chiang's philosophy makes up a chapter in the book - Pure, Salt, Artisan, South, Texture, Unique, Memory and Terroir. Chiang writes, "Octaphilosophy has been developed as a tool to explain a dish. At Restaurant André [in Singapore], there are no starters or main courses but all dishes are there for a reason and all are equally important. Each dish is built up around an octaphilosophy concept and finds its ultimate expression in the dining room setting.
"For the kitchen team at Restaurant André ingredients and techniques are crucial for executing the idea and presenting delicious food. For the diner there is an expectation that a meal be enjoyable and impressive. Octaphilosophy is a valuable tool, a conceptual framework, for creation and remembrance. Rather than explaining ingredients and cooking techniques, octaphilosophy references ideas and feelings. Focus is directed towards what's in front of the diner - the appearance and aroma of the dish - and on the actual eating experience, featuring the most important element - deliciousness."
The dishes are beautiful, but as can be expected from a restaurant that is No 3 on Asia's 50 Best Restaurantslist and No 46 on the World's 50 Best list, they are not anything that most home cooks will be whipping up anytime soon. The recipes often call for unusual ingredients and specialised equipment. There are some that are doable at home (although they take time), and these include rice, truffle, coffee glaze; churros, "Nutella", pain d'epice; chestnut, Armagnac, beurre noisette; and burnt aubergine, burnt miso, burnt butter chips.