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A Singaporean Pastry Chef's Journey


Cheryl Koh's name may be legendary when it comes to sweet stuff, but it took her a while to achieve fame and fortune. Here, she describes the journeys that inspired her culinary style.

Published on Feb 8, 2017

 

Singaporean pastry chef Cheryl Koh's cozy French patisserie shop Tarte offers a dozen different tarts baked fresh daily, in a seasonal roster of traditional and Asian-fusion flavors. The self-taught chef got her start at Raffles, and channeled that experience into a baking odyssey that took her around the globe until an offer to head up Les Amis and Tarte brought her back home. Here she shares a few memorable journeys, trips that have sweetened her life and honeyed her dishes.

 

Tarte
The delectable range of seasonal tarts. Courtesy of Tarte.

 

Paris, 2003 | "I wanted to learn how to cook, so I packed and left for France. When I first visited Paris I fell in love. I had my first job in the kitchen at Lasserre, a Michelin-starred institution where I spent three years learning the basics. I still remember the taste of the crème brûlée."

Lasserre
Cheryl Koh's first job in Kitchen, Lasserre. Courtesy of Lasserre.

 

Dubai, 2005 | "I never had any difficulties being a pastry chef, even if it's mainly a man's world. But you need to be disciplined and well organized. This is what I learned in Dubai when I worked with Austrian pastry chef Felix Schmid at Burj Al Arab. He taught me to manage a team of 50 pastry cooks, which prepared me for my position at Les Amis where I have 10 people working with me."

 

Italy, 2008 | "My work experience in Italy still inspires me. At Don Alfonso 1890 on the Amalfi Coast, I learned how to choose the best and freshest ingredients. I always think about the simple and perfect taste of pasta with tomato when I choose the flavors for my tarts: Indian Alphonso mangoes, coconuts and passion fruits are among my favorite local fruits."

Amalfi Coast
Amalfi Coast, Italy. ©Alfiofer/Dreamstime.com.

 

New York, 2008 | "From the fine dining restaurants and traditional legendary steak houses to the street snacks and food trucks, New York is so vibrant. The chefs are openminded, enthusiastic, motivated and willing to learn. During my trip, I really appreciated the street-food scene, which reminded me of the hawker food culture in Singapore"

New York
Food trucks in New York. ©Tupungato/Dreamstime.com.

 

Hong Kong, 2010 | "I don't want to do something new; I just want to do the best version of it. Simplicity showcases the techniques. So when I decided to move back to Asia, I chose Hong Kong for its variety of great produce and products. It was here that I had the opportunity to work with chef Sebastien Lepinoy, a protégé of legendary Joël Robuchon. He was my biggest influence."

Chef Sebastien Lepinoy
Chef Sebastien Lepinoy, a protégé of legendary Joël Robuchon. Courtesy of Sebastien Lepinoy.

 

Tokyo, 2014 | "This was an amazing food trip. I really enjoyed the freshness and quality of the food that you can only find in Japan, be it the fruits or the seafood or the meats. I spent a week eating through Michelin-starred restaurants in Tokyo and also visited the markets, like Tsukiji, and food halls." — As told to ALESSANDRA GESUELLI.

Tsukiji
Tsukiji market. Stefano Politi Markovina/GettyImages.

 

 

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Chef Cheryl Koh. Courtesy of Tarte.
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