Mise En Place, a French (culinary) term for having "everything in place", is probably the most important word in any food-related business and yet you probably never heard of it. For most customers, we often only notice what is in right front of us and rarely celebrate the countless hours spent making those dishes presented to us. We want to help put a spotlight to the sacrifices many chefs put in behind closed doors (or to be more precise, shutters).
In our first feature, we follow Chef Ivan Yeo, Co-founder and Executive Chef of The 1925 Brewing Co, as he goes about a typical day in running his Teochew restaurant.
Chef Ivan Yeo, a proud Teochew
"I want to change the idea that Teochew food is boring."
When I first met Ivan, I was immediately amazed by the level of dedication he has to discover his heritage and hone his craft. Even though he did not go through culinary school, Ivan learned by getting down to business and traveling around Asia, learning how the unique Teochew flavour has evolved throughout time while unearthing his roots. He shared about how a chance encounter in Vietnam where he tried an eggplant dish that exhibited the same exact taste as a Teochew dish. Wanting to see how far it goes, he started speaking to the roadside vendor in his Teochew dialect and was surprised when he got a response in the same dialect. The influence and cuisine have spread even to the most secluded of places, a roadside stall! This is but one example he shared about the mission he is on to further discover the Teochew cuisine.
Respecting your ingredients and the people behind it
"I think that a lot of people don't see the action behind it so they take it for granted."
What made going beyond the extra mile worth it was a recurring concept that kept popping in my mind. At 12am, I was standing behind Ivan wondering how he's still full of energy and why he even chooses to go to the Fishery Port when buying fresh fish from a supplier is so much easier. When we got back and Ivan started processing the fish at 3am, I was surprised at how he still had the energy to do all that while I could barely even keep my eyes open. He said it was 'out of respect'. Out of respect for the ingredients, the fishermen, the fishmongers who are wide awake at 12am running their stalls and of course, the customers as well. He feels that he owes it to the people who put in so much effort in the wee hours of the morning to make sure that the fishes they help to bring in are treated with utmost respect and care.
I'm never looking at food the same again
Personally, I never thought much about food. I thought it was simply about tasting good and looking good for the 'gram. It was only after this little peek into Ivan's life that I realized that there is so much more that goes into even the smallest of condiments and gained a sense of respect for food that I will never look at the same ever again.
The 1925 Brewing Co. at Joo Chiat is definitely a must-visit, not only for it's chio hole-in-the-wall-esque aesthetics but it's also a great place to be blown away by the simplest of dishes done right. Check them out below!
P.S. I never knew cabbage and porridge could taste that good. Neither did I know duck could be that tender.
P.P.S I went back about 6 times in the span of 1 month because I had to try everything on the menu.
P.P.P.S I don't drink beer but their Yellow Van Pale Ale is making me contemplate my life choices.
The industrial-inspired interior design of The 1925 Brewing Co.
Roasting of ingredients over a heated charcoal flame.
First feature of the day! ChaoShan braised duck breast.
Next up - ChaoShan Ceviche.
And then more mouth-watering Teochew inspired dishes!
Trust me, you'll never get over the richness of the braised sauce or the porridge. I had to go through a 3-week Kway Chap binge to get it out of my head. So think twice before you visit, lest you get dangerously addicted!