Enoch on Immanuel

Hotheaded chef Immanuel Tee has mellowed

Mr Immanuel Tee as a cook during national service.
Mr Immanuel Tee as a cook during national service.PHOTOS: COURTESY OF ENOCH TEO

It is hard to believe that the mellow, soft-spoken chef Immanuel Tee used to be a hothead.

His business partner, Mr Enoch Teo, says: "I know, no one can imagine what he was like. Last time, his emotions would take over his mind."

To this, Mr Tee smiles, nods politely and says he is "more chill" now.

Mr Teo says his friend has high standards for the quality of the food served and a small slip-up would trigger his short fuse.

He says: "It was a struggle at first when we worked together. If he got a bad comment about the food, he would be emotional and negative and take it out on the staff.

 

"But he has learnt to take criticism better."

He adds that Mr Tee has also matured as a chef, expanding his focus beyond just the product served.

He says: "At the restaurants Immanuel worked at, he wouldn't look at the sales. He was focused on just the product.

"Whether the company made money did not matter to him. If the dish is not good, he'd just throw it out and not consider the cost.

"He didn't realise that if the company is in the red, the restaurant will close no matter how good a chef he is."

Mr Tee, who has a girlfriend, is the second of four brothers. His elder brother, Alex, 30, runs an online flower business and his twin brother, Ezra, is also a chef.

His youngest brother Chris, 26, is an undergraduate at the Singapore Management University.

His parents are divorced and he lives with his mother, Madam Karen Shun, 51, a florist.

He started his culinary career at Swissotel The Stamford's Plaza Market Cafe and worked his way up to the hotel's fine-dining French restaurant, Jaan.

The move to French cuisine, however, was tough for him at first.

He says: "The level of stress was very high and I was getting yelled at all the time. But I decided to bite the bullet and get through it."

The experience toughened him and he followed chef Andre Chiang when the latter went on to open Restaurant Andre.

Mr Tee's fondness for French cuisine grew steadily and he honed his techniques in French cooking by working at other French restaurants, including Le Bistrot du Sommelier in Armenian Street and now-defunct restaurants Keystone and Guy Savoy.

If he did not become a chef, he says he would have pursued his childhood ambition to become a veterinarian.

The animal lover keeps fish, along with seven cats and four rabbits, at his mother's four-room HDB flat in Bishan.

Given that he is partial to food quality, he is in charge of menu development at Garcons and one of the criteria he has set for the food it serves is that the food has to be photogenic enough for social media.

He says: "Our focus is on giving hearty portions and the food also has to be Instagram-able."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 06, 2016, with the headline 'Hotheaded chef has mellowed'. Print Edition | Subscribe