Andre Chiang sees closing Restaurant Andre as a new beginning

ST VIDEO: REBECCA LYNNE TAN
Andre Chiang invited his staff of Restaurant Andre to share a buffet lunch with the media on Feb 13, 2018.
Andre Chiang invited his staff of Restaurant Andre to share a buffet lunch with the media on Feb 13, 2018.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - On Feb 14, when most Western restaurants are filled with diners out for Valentine's Day, Restaurant Andre is celebrating a different kind of love.

It is the last day of service for the fine-dining modern French restaurant in Bukit Pasoh Road and chef-owner Andre Chiang invited the family members of his staff for dinner. He also paid for the air tickets for those who had parents living abroad.

"It was a chance for their parents to see where they work and what they do," he explained. "Many of them had not dined at the restaurant before."

The restaurant closed its doors after eight years, during which it gained a reputation for being one of the top restaurants in Asia. It was No. 2 on the Asia's 50 Best list of restaurants last year, and was awarded two Michelin stars in 2016 and last year.

At a press conference yesterday, Chiang, 41, said that after 10 years, he wanted to move on. "This can't be all that I can do," he said.

The Taiwanese chef and his Thai wife Sudarampai Chiang, 47, will be moving to Taipei where he has another restaurant Raw, which specialises in Western cuisine using local produce. He also co-owns and manages six other restaurants, including the five-year-old Burnt Ends in Singapore and The Bridge in Chengdu, which is partially open.

He said he would spend half his time in Raw and the rest on running the other eateries.

On his earlier announcement that he wanted the Michelin Guide to exclude Raw from its upcoming inaugural Taiwan edition, he said the restaurant was special to him because it was a platform to showcase Taiwan to the world.

"It's a unique combination of the people, design and food of Taiwan. Every city needs an iconic restaurant. Raw will be the iconic restaurant for Taiwan."

He added softly by way of explaining his Michelin decision: "So I don't need that."

He said he would also start three new concepts in cities around Asia at the end of this year, but did not reveal any details except that they would be fun and in "totally different categories".

"It could be beverages or pop-ups," he said. "They will show different sides of Andre. It's not just Restaurant Andre."

One of the new eateries will be in the vacated conserved building at the end of Chinatown where Restaurant Andre was. He would only say that it will be "fine-dining and a totally new cuisine".

The staff of Restaurant Andre shared a buffet lunch with the media yesterday to say goodbye. Many expressed mixed feelings over the restaurant's closure.

"It was pretty sad," sommelier Antoine Caboe, 32, said, "but it was the decision of the chef."

The Frenchman had joined Restaurant Andre only seven months ago from London, but he will be moving to Raw with Chiang. He saw moving to Taipei as a new adventure and was looking forward to it.

Executive chef Zor Tan, 31, will be striking out on his own, however.

He had been working with Chiang for the last 10 years, from when they were at Jaan Restaurant in Swissotel The Stamford. He joined the pioneer team at Restaurant Andre and worked his way from commis - the lowest position in the chef hierarchy - to become Chiang's right-hand man.

He will be taking a break for a few months and going on a belated honeymoon with his wife. He got married in July last year.

"Then I plan to open my own place," said the Malaysian permanent resident. "It will be something more casual where I can have my own style."