Most chefs change their menus every three months. Andrew Walsh pushes himself to change his every six to eight weeks. That is enough for a regular patron of modern European restaurant Cure to have a new experience each time.
“Chefs will usually pop their signature dishes on their menu. It’s good for winning accolades, when you have your standout dishes on it. (However) I like to challenge myself on a monthly basis,” says Walsh.
It’s not as if he has it easy. There are no vast expanses of nature in Singapore. Glittering skyscrapers replace lush, green trees where Walsh once looked to for inspiration.
“The hardest thing here is trying to get creative. I live, work, and socialise in the same area every day. You don’t get too much of that nature element. We also don’t have much contact with farmers,” says Walsh.
“Most chefs would pop their signature dishes on their menu. It’s good for winning accolades… I like to challenge myself on a monthly basis.”
– Andrew Walsh, chef-owner of Cure
To find inspiration, he heads to the wet market in Chinatown, a stone’s throw away from Cure. Here, Walsh walks around with a cup of coffee in hand, picking up things that catch his eye.
“I might pick up a pomelo, or spot a fresh seabass. I’ll usually just pick one of each, pay in cash, and come back with maybe 20 items in bags,” he shares.
The creative process begins when he slices everything up and lays out the raw ingredients on a chopping board. “I’ll stand there for a while, in front of that board, and taste everything — the melons, the pomelo, or even the raw fish,” says Walsh.
“I would taste the fish raw first to get a sense of its texture and natural flavours. Then, I’ll take some of the fish and cook it to see its texture. I might grill it, or put some in batter and deep-fry it.”
He also believes in giving all of himself. When Cure opened its doors in 2015, Walsh powered on five hours of sleep daily. Days started at 7am with an espresso shot, followed by a latte for breakfast.
Now, he still drinks too much coffee. But he takes an hour off each afternoon for high intensity workouts with his personal trainer at a gym in Tanjong Pagar.
“After (training), I’m exhausted. And when you’re exhausted, you’re naturally relaxed. Ideas come then.”
If he weren’t a chef, though, Walsh would have liked to follow in his father’s footsteps and be a gardener. It would be easy to spot gardens tended to by him; just look out for ones with plenty of thyme and rosemary.
“For me, it’s the ceremony of it. You go out of the kitchen, breathe fresh air, think about what you are doing, and take some scissors to trim off the herbs you need,” says Walsh. It affords a few moments of quiet.
“There needs to be a release, between the brain and the body.”