Singapore Restaurants | Singapore Food Scene | Labyrinth | Chef LG Han
Singapore is a perfect canvas for the food obsessed. Creating, discussing and eating food is pretty much a national pastime. At Straits Canopy we have been pondering the food scene in Singapore and wondering what makes it so special here. We’ve searched our island nation to discover the stories behind the chefs and how our little red dot has inspired them. And, like the eclectic nation that it springs from, we found that the restaurant industry is brimming with tales of talent and passion. Read on!
Chef: LG Han
A 1980’s Upbringing
It can be said that the 1980’s in Singapore was the era that produced the mix of “east meets west” food culture that we enjoy in Singapore today. Singapore has long been a country of blended influences. Growing up in the 1980’s, a young L.G. Han had a front row seat to view Singapore’s diverse cuisines.
Food runs through the veins of Han’s family. Han’s mother is Thai and his father Singaporean. Han’s father was in the hotel business and special occasions were often decadent hotel buffets. His parents met in London whilst studying and their open approach to different cultures had a great impact on Han and the food they ate.
Han “grew up in the 1980’s on McDonalds, and spaghetti at home. My parents would make shepherd’s pie for me too and then of course we had local food.” Quite the variety. What we loved about Han was that his upbringing made him very down to earth and he happily told us that while he loves fine dining sometimes he is completely satisfied tucking in at a chain pasta restaurant.
As most parents do, Han’s parents thought university would be the best bet for their son. Far better than a life in the kitchen, so Han headed to the prestigious London School of Economics where he studied accounting. After landing a job at Goldman Sachs and then moving onto Citibank Han realized that his passion lay elsewhere.
With close friends who recognised his cooking ability, a plan was hatched for Labyrinth. “We planned this restaurant for two years,” says Han. During that time Han was honing his cooking skills at culinary school, spending time in the kitchen with established chefs and fine tuning his concepts for the food that he wanted to create. He pointed out that even his partners had no F&B experience, “they are just very supportive…and are investing [in Han’s] talent and potential, not for the money.”
Fast forward to March 2014 and Han’s baby, Labyrinth, opened to widespread acclaim. Han let his creativity fly to create his signature chilli crab dish that could be described as a piece of art rather than a plate of food. Han himself likes to refer to the food at Labyrinth as “New Singaporean cuisine that represents a new generation of Singaporeans”.
Passion and Finding the ‘Wow’ Factor
Han’s passion guides the kitchen to extraordinary lengths to develop new concepts to excite his patrons, he wants people to “leave with a sense of wow!”
Han loves to surprise people and show them, “What you see is not what you get. It is visual deception in some ways, a bit of a magic show.” So the pressure is on to spend time on research and development in order to reinvent and recreate signature dishes that can turn simple hawker fare into a gastronomic delight.
Han says, “It’s not about having the best chilli crab sauce in town but it is about having the most innovative, tasty chilli crab dish in town…and the most fun dish.” In an effort to keep the balance between the most popular dishes and a little experimentation, Labyrinth has created two new menus. The Signature menu and the Heritage Menu, with both featuring dishes Labyrinth is known for.
What makes Han unique is what makes Singapore unique – parents from different cultures, a desire to travel and a continuous appreciation for all kinds of food. Han is passionate about Singaporean cuisine and that it, “represents our society and our cosmopolitan influences and history. Put it this way, everyone in Singapore came from overseas, it’s a melting pot of culture.” We hear your Chef Han!
The particular thing that stands out for Han in Singapore is the diversity of food choices and “although we’re a very small country we have so much diversity.” We agree, you can find food in Singapore to suit all budgets and tastes, where quality at every level is still good.
And what really makes Singapore special is that alongside the French, Italian and Spanish there are also hawker centres. “There’s one unique thing that Singapore has and that’s good hawker food…you can’t find this anywhere else in the world…nowhere.”
So what is local is really our diversity. “Singaporeans should try to move away from the argument of what is local, they should be proud of what is Singapore.” And we are.
5 Neil Road, Singapore, 088806 (note that there are plans to move in the near future)
phone +65 6223 4098
Open from Tuesday to Sunday from 6.30pm to 10.30pm
Written by Victoria Milner