Celebrity chef, 兿 yì by Jereme Leung
Even with a couple of email exchanges , one thing’s clear: we can sense an overwhelming warmth and passion for the job from Jereme Leung’s friendly responses to our questions. Born in Hong Kong where his father was local and a half-Singaporean mother, Jereme only moved to Singapore when he was 6 years old. Since the tender age of 13, he worked from the ground up in multiple restaurants across the world to be the master of the art (兿 yì) of modern Chinese cuisine that he is now.
For Jereme, being Singaporean remains a large part of his identity. Jereme candidly opens up more on his career, growing up and visiting our stores as a child, as well as who he dedicates his exclusive Ginger-Scented Egg Custard with Grouper recipe to!
On his career
1. What was the first thing you learnt about Shanghainese diners when you first moved there? How is it different from Singapore?
Southeast Asian Chinese, especially those born before the 1990s, generally have ancestral linkages to the Guangdong provinces. These provinces usually form the bulk of immigrants that arrived in Singapore throughout the 1800-1900s due to civil war and the slavery trade. Whether their mother tongue is Teochew, Hokkien, Hakka or Cantonese, they are all part of Guangdong province, China.
Shanghai, on the other hand, is a totally different city as it was the Pearl of the Orient since the 1900s. The city’s palate is in many ways more interesting and consists of other regional and international flavours. From Hunan and Tibet to Russia, most cuisine styles under the sun can be found in Shanghai. This makes Shanghai one of the most competitive markets for the dining industry.
2. How often do you cook at home? How different is your approach at home vs work kitchen?
I used to cook less at home when I was travelling about 180 days in an average year to all my restaurants throughout the region. However, I have been cooking every day for the past 6 months like many people that were trapped at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Personally, I still think like a professional chef even at home, hence I am that kind of guy that would cook 20 kg of meat in one go, vacuum packed and freeze them in small portions and ready to reheat so I can serve 4-5 dishes in the snap of a finger when required!
3. What are some of the challenges in sourcing ingredients for your dishes?
In the beginning, sourcing ingredients from overseas was not as efficient and fresh. However, this is no longer a challenge as China has grown in the past decade and now offers some of the best logistics solutions globally!
On his childhood
4. Do you have any fond memories shopping for ingredients at FairPrice while growing up?
During the 1975-1990s period, hence wet markets, neighborhood provision stores and NTUC FairPrice were the main source of shopping venues for people of our generation. As a young kid, going to NTUC FairPrice was always a treat as it had air-conditioning and an array of so many foods that were new to us in the 1980s!
5. What are some of your fondest food-related memories?
My mother’s family used to run several restaurants in People’s Park Complex and Ghim Moh Road. As such, most of my childhood memories were in these places where my grandmother would offer me a roast duck drumstick freshly cut from a bird that just came out of the barbecue roaster. Heavenly!
On his chosen dish
6. Was this dish created in your home or work kitchen?
This is a relatively simple dish that could be easily elevated at home with a few main swaps for the main ingredients. This dish features red garoupa but can be substituted with king crabs for a celebration, or some prawns for a more homely dish.
7. Why did you choose this cooking method for your dish?
This cooking method first originated from many Hong Kong-style restaurants serving Chinese cuisine in Singapore since the 1980. It was popularised by a famous restaurant called East Ocean (“Dong Hai”)!
8. Who would you dedicate this dish to?
I would love to dedicate this recipe to all friends and supporters of my restaurant. Thank you for your continuous support and giving me this opportunity to showcase some of my culinary expressions in Singapore, my beloved home!