Chef Raymond Tham, Executive Chef of Skillet At 163

THE SKILLET AT 163 comes into its fifth month strong, serving modern European food with an Asian flair and touch. Enjoy cross-border savouries such as chicken mille-feuille, Korean kimchi fries, and the nasi lemak inspired sandwich. For a sweet and elegant finish, try out the “Texture of Chocolate”, a dessert experience that piques the four senses; sound, touch, sight, and taste. Executive chef RAYMOND THAM honed his tastebuds abroad mainly in the United Kingdom where he trained at the Wentworth Golf Club under pastry chef Pascal Cialdella, and the island of Bermuda as Senior Chef-De-Partie of the Fairmont Southampton hotel. Tham continues to travel the world as a chocolate consultant for Barry Callebaut Asia Pacific’s research and development division.

 

 

1. What made you realize that a career in the food industry was the right path for you?

Wow, being in the food industry is a lot of sweat and tears. But since the age of six, I loved to cook. Other kids went to the playground but I was hiding in the kitchen helping my Mom and Grandma, experimenting. One time I blew up the house – I was making this Hakka dish, 芋头扣肉 "wu tau kau yoke" where you need to steam the layers of pork belly and yam. I went for a nap and woke up to a kitchen filled with smoke.

 

2. What do you consider to be the most important lesson you have learnt along your journey as a chef /operator?

Working hard is something that cannot be overlooked. Being a chef is really a tough job. Even now I’m on my feet for 14 hours. We do rest on Sunday but for the rest of the week we don’t have a lot of time for breaks.

But we do it for the passion; making people feel happy, making everybody feel special when they come in. One time some kids asked us to make crème brulee. It’s actually not on our menu but I thought hey I haven’t had crème brulee in a long time. So we made it. By the end of the day if my customer is happy, I’m happy.

 

3. What do you consider to be your defining quality as a chef?

I don’t limit myself to any ingredients. I’m not obsessed that the ingredients I use have to exclusively be local or imported. I use anything I can get that is of good quality and easily accessible. Yesterday I was at the market and I saw a food stall with many different types of gingers. Recently I was in Sri Lanka and brought back a lot of Ceylon cinnamon sticks. They’re milder, more subtle in flavour.

I love to experiment. In Callebaut I’m considered a very unique guy because I’m able to demonstrate five styles of chocolate – I can design dishes that highlight their different characteristics.

 

4. How has your outlook on cooking changed over the years? (If it has changed.)

Many people love to put things on the plate. Don’t put something unnecessary on the plate just for decoration. For example, some Instagrammers complain that my desserts would look better with strawberries. But imported strawberries can’t match the flavour of the freshly picked ones I had in the UK. It’s still hard for me to find a balance point between taste and looks. Dishes can look simple but taste good.

 

5. Lastly, what motto do you live by?

I think that everyone who walks into the restaurant must feel good, feel special. We don’t care what they’re wearing; they could be wearing a singlet instead of a shirt, or slippers instead of shoes. We’ll still treat them as a VIP.

 

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