Foodie Confidential

Ultra spicy food? No sweat

As the CEO of high-octane ultra lounge party The Podium Lounge, Robbie Hoyes-Cock is used to turning up the heat

Singaporeans love their chilli, but most would shudder at the thought of trying food that boasts level 25 of spiciness, which comes from a potent blend of chilli paste.

But for Briton Robbie Hoyes-Cock, one of his proudest dining accomplishments is polishing off a plate of buffalo wings with that level of spiciness at Sunset Grill and Pub, when it was located in Seletar Air Base. The spiciness levels go up to 35.

The chief executive of the glitzy Formula One Singapore Grand Prix post-race party, The Podium Lounge, recalls with a chuckle: "I had to run to the restroom and curl up in a foetal position as my stomach was in great pain. At least I got my name up on the leader board."

When it comes to food, it is the spicier, the better for the 36-year-old, who says he adds a dash of chilli sauce to everything, from scrambled eggs to chicken rice.

When he visits his family in the United Kingdom once or twice a year, he relishes exploring the extensive range of chillies in supermarkets there, such as Scotch bonnet peppers and carbonero.

"Spicy food helps release endorphins, it is addictive and enhances the flavours of a dish," he says.

His palate for spicy food developed at a young age.


Mr Robbie Hoyes-Cock loves to add chilli sauce to everything, from scrambled eggs to chicken rice. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Born in Greece, his family moved to Singapore when he was 10 months old. His father, Hugh, 63, runs the Asian master franchise for the O'Briens Irish Sandwich Cafe chain here. When he was 16, Mr Hoyes-Cock moved to the UK to attend Eton College and read law at Bristol University.

One of his earliest memories of food is of family meals at Samy's Curry Restaurant here when he was four. "I always have the mutton biryani, fishcakes, chicken tikka and rice with fish curry on a banana leaf."

At work, Mr Hoyes-Cock is also used to turning up the heat with The Podium Lounge, a high-octane ultra lounge party. The annual post-F1 race extravaganza at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore is jam-packed with music performances, fashion and art shows, and lots of booze.

Headlining this year's party, which takes place from Sept 15 to 17, is Grammy Award-winning R&B star Macy Gray and rapper Coolio from the United States.

Mr Hoyes-Cock started organising monthly high-end parties in 2005 and was invited to host a three-day F1 party in 2009, which evolved into The Podium Lounge.

He checks out parties and cocktail bars around the world once every two months. But he has cut down on his travelling and spends his holidays with his homemaker wife, Anna, 35, and their three children, aged five, three and 10 months.

He says: "You need to constantly reinvent yourself as you are only as good as your last party."

What is the biggest thrill of organising parties?

You never know who is going to show up at the very last minute. Gordon Ramsay (British celebrity chef) was mobbed when he showed up at The Podium Lounge in 2014. Kim Kardashian (American reality TV star) also turned up with her large entourage in the Abu Dhabi edition that year.

What is a memorable party that you have attended?

A New Year's Eve beach party at Amanpuri Resort in Phuket. It had a very luxurious and intimate vibe with fewer than 100 people. I mingled with guests such as (former Spice Girl) Mel B and Japanese fashion designer Kenzo Takada, who came in Speedos, a fishnet top and feathers.

  • WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?


    A half-serving of roast Hainanese-style chicken, lashings of Beluga caviar, a Double Fillet-O-Fish burger from McDonald's followed by a Mr Kipling treacle tart with hot whipped cream - all washed down with a Bloody Caesar and a single cask whisky from a vintage that is older than me.

Growing up, what are your fondest memories of food?

I remember eating at the now-defunct Rasa Singapura Food Centre in Tanglin Road, where my dad tried to get me to eat mushrooms in a noodle dish by saying that it was Chinese pork. That was where I also developed a fondness for chicken rice.

What are your favourite local dishes?

I used to eat chicken rice three times a week after school. I always order breast meat, no fat, no bone with extra chilli and dark soya sauce. I love the combination of flavours at places such as Five Star Chicken Rice in River Valley and the Boon Tong Kee restaurants.

I also like sambal stingray and kangkong. I have been frequenting a stall in Newton Circus Food Centre since I was teenager. The stingray meat falls off the bone and is succulent.

What are your favourite eateries here?

I frequent Pietrasanta Italian Restaurant in Portsdown Road as it is near my home and there is always a bubbly crowd. I love the spaghetti with anchovies, which is not on the menu, as it is packed with garlic, vine tomatoes and chilli.

The cassoulet at L'Angelus in Club Street is to die for. It is rich with pork sausages, duck breast and white beans. Sadly, it rarely leaves me space for the steak tartare, which is prepared by your table on a trolley with every possible ingredient.

What is the best thing that you have eaten?

Pan-fried foie gras. I first tried this as a teenager at Senso, an Italian restaurant in Club Street, and was blown away by the taste. It is an explosion of rich and buttery flavours. With a little bit of salt, it is exquisite.

What was your biggest dining splurge?

A $300-a-head champagne brunch at the seven-star The Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai, which overlooks the sea. There was free-flow champagne and Ossetra and Beluga caviar and I had to restrain myself from eating the whole pot.

What are some must-have food when you visit the UK?

British-Indian curry from Indian restaurants such as Chutney's in Swansea. They serve the mutton curries in small tiffins and the vindaloo is sweeter and spicier. I love the chutney trays that have pappadum, mango chutney and mint sauce.

I also like going to Johnnies in The Mumbles in Swansea for its mouthwatering cod and chips, with the option of a battered sausage, mushy peas or rissole. It makes the 13-hour flight from Singapore much more bearable.

If you could dine with anyone in the world, who would that be?

Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of the Formula One Group. He is an exceptionally good businessman and is almost like a statesman as he moves in the high echelons of government leaders and royalty. He should have great stories to tell.

•For more information on The Podium Lounge, go to www.podiumlounge.com/sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 03, 2017, with the headline 'Ultra spicy food? No sweat '. Print Edition | Subscribe