You’d think it starts and ends with the ingredients, preparation and cooking methods, but it’s actually more of a journey that revolves around people. The “human connection”, to be exact.
“It depends on which angle you’re coming from. If you’re looking at the ingredients, I feel that in every country you’re bound to have some that differ from the others,” says Singaporean chef Jimmy Lim.
“Instead of focusing on what I can cook here (in Taiwan) or anywhere else, through all my years of living here and travelling, I’ve come to realise that cooking for me now is more about human connection than focusing on what ingredients I do or do not have.”
Jimmy is known for his unique take on Singaporean dishes, hence he’s the perfect person to ask for tips. He’s won culinary competitions, worked at Per Se in New York and Noma in Copenhagen, and his restaurant, JL Studio in Taichung, Taiwan, just received the 2019 Miele One To Watch Award under the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants programme.
“At JL Studio, I serve Modern Singaporean cuisine, which has been recomposed, rethought and reimagined. I borrow the traditional techniques and flavour profiles of Singaporean cuisine and reinterpret it into modern sensibilities for the contemporary palate,” he explains.
“I hope to share the wide spectrum of flavours in Singapore and Southeast Asia, and the extraordinary produce that Taiwan has to offer. My mission is to keep trying to elevate and innovate Singaporean cuisine further.”
Here, he tells us why it’s important to rethink and put our own stamp on the meals we make – and how to do it not just for other people, but ultimately for ourselves too. 😊
#1 Think of food as something special that represents you and who you are
“I’ve always believed it is food that brings people together. Whenever there is food, there is bound to be people around it. As the days pass by, I get to understand this land, the people and their culture better. In the end, I realised I was ‘cooking’ human relationships with my partners, guests, farmers, suppliers, peers, friends and dear team,” he observes.
“My cooking, or rather my food, has become a medium or vessel – which I think helps me translate my thoughts and feelings about my own heritage, my hospitality, and this piece of land to them. It is about the time and place, that moment of human connection which is so important to me now.”
#2 Let it remind you of home
“For me, my passion for food starts at home. There are a lot of food memories during family gatherings. Looking back now, I feel that dishes are just a medium to bring people together. It is during those times that food links people together. I really enjoyed those times. It is really those moments that stay in my memory, and I would say I convey those memories into the hospitality at JL Studio. I hope every guest who visits JL Studio feels at home.”
#3 You don’t have to look far for inspiration
“I don’t really have a specific way or thought process to create a dish. I can be inspired by anything I come into contact with. It can be:
• a great ingredient that I get my hands on
• a paragraph I read from a book about my culture or history
• a poem
• a statue
• a conversation with someone
• nature itself
• a specific traditional dish, and
• a memory.
“I guess for me inspiration is all around us, but do we slow down and notice it and get inspired? Most of the time I realise it is right under our noses, but we don’t take the time to notice or think about it.”
We can do that now. 😊
Photos by Shinichiro Fujii