The Chef and His Garden


Pollen’s executive chef Steve Allen recalls the single most important culinary lesson he learnt from Gordon Ramsay


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The Chef and His Garden
Dining January 15th, 2018

“I learnt everything from Gordon Ramsay, apart from screaming and shouting at people.”

Singapore-based chef Steve Allen clearly has a strong impression of his ex-colleague Ramsay, with whom he worked for over a decade at the now-defunct restaurant Claridge’s in London

“He is a really nice guy. One of the things I find unique about him is not really ground-breaking, but he believes in the simple basics that people forget — the use of good, fresh ingredients.”

This valuable lesson has stayed with him throughout the years, from his time at Ramsay’s now-defunct restaurant Claridge’s in London to his current role helming Pollen in Gardens by the Bay.

The executive chef sources for the freshest ingredients from trusted suppliers and Pollen’s own garden.

Housed within The Flower Dome, the modern European restaurant is blessed with a conducive environment to grow herbs and vegetables. The large greenhouse boasts a cool-dry climate with temperature hovering around 24 degree Celsius.

Dressed in chef’s whites, the down-to-earth Englishman took time to step out of the kitchen where bustling dinner preparations were going on. He says: “We are quite lucky to be able to pluck the ingredients. We can go up there before lunch and before dinner, snip off what we need. Not many people can put fresh herbs on dishes that will be so strong in flavour and so fresh.”

These garden-fresh ingredients, like zucchini and fennel, will be transformed into delectable dishes at an exclusive dinner with Champagne Henri Giraud this Thursday.

Together with Pollen’s resident sommelier Amir Solay, chef Allen created a bespoke champagne pairing menu spanning five courses. Diners’ palates are in for a treat, as they can expect to savour tender king salmon poached in apple water and an appetiser of smoked langoustine served with spinach and herb infused water.

“The light and fruity rose complements the creamy seafood. The finesse of the wine cuts through the fattiness of the lardo and richness of the ricotta.”

Amir Solay, Pollen’s resident sommelier

Amir highlights how the Henri Giraud’s Dame Jane Rose goes well with the appetiser, a slightly smoked langoustine topped with lardo, which is cured pork, ricotta, zucchini and hazelnuts. An unusual choice given that most seafood dishes are paired with white wines.

“The light and fruity rose complements the creamy seafood. The finesse of the wine cuts through the fattiness of the lardo and richness of the ricotta,” says Mr Amir, who is also the Group Wine and Beverage Manager of Unlisted Collection.

Allen adds: “It is quite a herbal, floral dish. We serve a herb juice on the side, I call it a water dressing where you infuse water with spinach and herbs. The dressing is sweet, it’s rich, it has cheese on there as well. The dish needs a little zesting up with the champagne.”

Allen lights up when talking about his gastronomic innovations at the sit-down interview. Cooking is a passion he has pursued since starting his culinary career as a teen.

“The most boring food was served when I worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant. It was the same thing every day, it felt like you are working in a factory. You are too scared to change.”

Steve Allen, executive chef at Pollen

What draws the dedicated chef to the kitchen is not the fame, nor Michelin stars. His motivation comes from the customers’ satisfaction.

He candidly says: “The most boring food was served when I worked in a Michelin-starred restaurant. It was the same thing every day, it felt like you are working in a factory. You are too scared to change. To be honest, you get quite carried away and lose the original inspiration as to why you started.

“If you can make your customers happy that’s the ultimate thing. I don’t look for recognition from media, food bloggers or any one like that. I get recognition when I get customers coming back. That’s what makes me happy.”

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