Chef's move to close acclaimed restaurant stuns industry

Chiang to also 'return' Restaurant Andre's two Michelin stars as he gears up for a 'significant transformation'

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Chef-owner Andre Chiang of Restaurant Andre says he wants to discover his roots and that there is more to him than just being a good chef. His 30-seat restaurant in Bukit Pasoh will close on Feb 14, 2018.
Chef Andre Chiang has announced that Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh Road will close on Feb 14 next year. The restaurant has two Michelin stars and marked its seventh anniversary on Tuesday.
Chef Andre Chiang has announced that Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh Road will close on Feb 14 next year. The restaurant has two Michelin stars and marked its seventh anniversary on Tuesday. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Shockwaves have rippled through the food industry after Taiwan-born chef Andre Chiang's announcement that he will close his two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Andre in Bukit Pasoh Road on Feb 14 next year.

He is preparing for a "significant transformation" by Feb 14, the 41-year-old said in an e-mail to the media at 3.39am yesterday. He intends to "return" his Michelin stars, and asked not to be included in next year's Michelin Guide Singapore.

With Michelin said to launch a Taiwan edition soon, he also asked that his Raw restaurant in Taipei not be included.

Mr Chan Hock Sen, vice-president of Michelin Asia-Pacific, confirmed that Chiang sent a letter to the guide, asking to return his two Michelin stars.

He said: "Every case is different, and it could be due to restaurant closure or a change in concept or chef. The guide will review every request carefully. If chef Chiang closes his restaurant, it will naturally not appear in the next edition of the Michelin Guide Singapore. We remind you that all editions are made for people who use the guides."

On Chiang's Facebook page on Tuesday night, he posted a black-and-white photo of himself with a caption, saying: "Today is an important day and a special day; a beginning of a nation, a beginning of a restaurant, a beginning of a relationship and a beginning of a new life."

Tuesday marked not only Restaurant Andre's seventh anniversary, but also his 13th wedding anniversary and Taiwan's National Day.

Mr Loh Lik Peng, 45, Chiang's business partner and founder of the Unlisted Collection group of restaurants and hotels, said: "I support his decision to close the restaurant, and have been glad to be part of the ride for the past seven years. It will be a pity for me, but running a restaurant is brutal and requires a chef to be at the top of his game. It is good that he is leaving at the top of his game."

He added that another restaurant, to be part of Unlisted Collection, will take over the Bukit Pasoh premises that house Restaurant Andre, which he owns, and details will be announced before Feb 14.

Mr Ignatius Chan, 53, owner of one-Michelin-starred Iggy's at the Hilton Singapore, said: "I presumed everything was going well. After all, no news is good news. So this announcement is pretty shocking. It is Singapore's loss to lose such a talented chef. He has been successful, and I am proud of his achievements."

Mr Francis Poulose, 49, managing director of food and beverage consultancy Poulose Associates, said: "I really didn't expect this. Regardless of his reasons, I will remember Andre for the culinary excitement that he brought to this city, even from his days at Jaan. In his own way, he helped this city stand out for its culinary strength. I wish him well."

Chef Willin Low, 45, of Wild Rocket in Mount Emily, noted that others, including British chef Marco Pierre White, have "returned" their stars. He said: "I think a chef like Andre is accomplished and confident enough to do the same."

He added: "Chefs work long, crazy hours everywhere, trying to achieve perfection in their own ways. Like everyone else, they need to stop and take stock of what has been achieved, what has been sacrificed and what needs to be reprioritised."

Acclaimed chefs worldwide have made similar announcements to return their Michelin stars. The most recent was French chef Sebastien Bras, chef-owner of Le Suquet in the French town of Laguiole, who asked to be stripped of the restaurant's three stars because of the pressure that comes with the accolade.

Group training manager Jolene Patel-Lee, 33, had her first date at Restaurant Andre in 2012, and dines there twice a year. "I am shocked and sad as we have fond memories of the restaurant. Chef Chiang is always personable and friendly," she said.

"My husband saw him prepare a dish with needlefish in an online video, and when we mentioned it to him, he cooked the dish for us. We will definitely be back before it closes."

•Additional reporting by Kenneth Goh

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2017, with the headline Chef's move to close acclaimed restaurant stuns industry. Subscribe