Two veteran chefs who ruled Singapore's culinary scene in the 1960s were announced yesterday as joint winners of the Special Recognition award in The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao Best Asian Restaurants Awards.
Red Star Restaurant's founders and master chefs, Sin Leong, 90, and Hooi Kok Wai, 79, are the first to win the accolade, which is one of two new personality titles in the annual awards to celebrate the best in Asian dining in Singapore. The other new title is Manager of the Year, which went to Hua Ting's restaurant manager, Ms Irene Yue, 62.
This second edition of the awards has a total of four personality titles in addition to restaurants ranked in bronze, silver and gold categories.
Chef and restaurateur Violet Oon, 68, of National Kitchen by Violet Oon, won the Lifetime Achievement award, previously won by Imperial Treasure Restaurant Group's founder Alfred Leung.
Master chef Koichiro Oshino, 48, of Shinji by Kanesaka at Carlton Hotel, was named Chef of the Year. Last year, VLV's head chef Martin Foo was the first recipient of the title.
Twenty-nine restaurants were revealed as bronze winners on Tuesday last week. The silver and gold recipients will be announced at an invitation-only gala reception at the Grand Hyatt Singapore on April 16.
Personality award winners
CHEF OF THE YEAR
Koichiro Oshino of Shinji by Kanesaka at Carlton Hotel
Violet Oon of National Kitchen by Violet Oon
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Irene Yue of Hua Ting Restaurant
Sin Leong and Hooi Kok Wai of Red Star Restaurant
The judges are The Straits Times' Life editor Tan Hsueh Yun, deputy Life editor Wong Ah Yoke and food correspondent Eunice Quek, as well as Lianhe Zaobao food correspondents Marcus Yeo, Ng Chin Chin and Ng Yimin.
The annual awards programme is part of the gourmet festival Asian Masters, which features a series of wine dinners, chef collaboration meals and culinary workshops held from March 17 to April 17. The year-long festival will continue with dining and cocktail promotions in the coming months.
Asian Masters is organised by Sphere Exhibits, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings, and food and beverage consultancy Poulose Associates.
Mr Wong says the two new personality titles were added to recognise the other players behind a restaurant's success.
He adds: "A good dining experience does not lie with just the chef. The manager and the rest of the team play an important part as well."
Sin and Hooi are surviving members of the Four Heavenly Kings of Singapore cuisine who together concocted a more elaborate festive version of the traditional raw fish salad or yusheng in 1964.
Hooi says in Mandarin: "We feel honoured to win this award as it recognises our efforts to preserve the traditions of Chinese cuisine. It is heartening to know there are those among the younger generation who appreciate our classic style of cooking."
The Lifetime Achievement award is an early birthday present for Oon, who turns 69 next month. She started her culinary career in the now-defunct New Nation newspaper writing food reviews, then curating and chronicling recipes in Her World magazine.
She says: "You could say I would never have qualified for this Lifetime Achievement award without the wonderful worlds of food that were opened to me as a journalist and to my editors who gave me free rein to develop the food columns in all the creative ways I wanted to - worlds that are seldom available to people in the culinary arena."
Oshino credits his win to his customers and team at Shinji.
"As a sushi chef, I draw inspiration and motivation from the customers sitting in front of me at the counter and I receive good support from my fellow chefs and service team. They motivate me to be better all the time," he says.
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