THU. DECEMBER 22, 2016WORDS BY BETTINA CHINPHOTOGRAPHY BY
LAURA JUNE KIRSCH
We take a seat with two top chefs for a night of collaboration, not competition.
9:00 PM on December 9th. I marked that time as BUSY in my calendar the moment I received an invitation from our friends at Tiger Beer. I couldn't wait to have what I knew would be a memorable gastronomical experience: finally, FINALLY, chowing down on some proper hawker food here in New York.
December 9th marked the final evening of Tiger Streats, a very special culinary experience held at Indochine by Tiger Beer that sought to create "shared experiences among people from all walks of life" (as the invite claimed). For 3 amazing nights, at both 6 and 9pm, Tiger Beer brought together in the kitchen two Michelin Star winning chefs and had them cook up a delicious four-star menu representing the very best from the United States and South East Asia. Competition was not in the air--the theme of the evening was collaborative creativity.
On one oven glove, you have Hawker Chan Hon Meng, a street cart legend from Singapore, winning world attention with his soya sauce chicken rice and noodle dishes. On the other oven glove, you have Chef Christopher Kostow, the third youngest chef to ever have received three Michelin stars. Chef Kostow is the Executive Chef of the The Restaurant at Meadowood in St. Helena, California, which is known for experimental, thoughtful dishes. It was a culinary match made in heaven.
Terrill and Josh, two of my Opening Ceremony colleagues, joined in on the experience, and we had a great time connecting with old and new friends over an amazing meal. Which, I suppose, was the whole point.
After the three sensational nights were over, and the chefs had a little rest, we were able to get a few candid answers about what inspires them to hang out and over fire everyday.
How would you define the identity of your restaurant and brand?
HAWKER CHAN: Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken Rice and Noodle is a food stall. After my food stall received a Michelin Star, the identity has broadened: we want to bring all sorts of people together, from different levels and different backgrounds, to have a simple plate of chicken and rice. I recently opened a quick service restaurant, located nearby in Chinatown and called Hawker Chan, so that even more people can experience my food.
CHRISTOPHER KOSTOW: Rustically refined, approachable, and constantly evolving.
Where does the inspiration for your dishes typically come from?
HAWKER CHAN: I am from a humble family from Ipoh, Malaysia. When I was younger my parent had to work, so I’ve had to cook since I was 10 years old. In my family, often we used soy sauce to mix with white long grain rice. The rice and and soya sauce is also considered a meal for me.
CHRISTOPHER KOSTOW: There is not one place where I draw inspiration – it comes from various people, places and things. Everything from travel, to artisans, growers, products, and the seasons...above all, our culinary garden is definitely a heavy driver and source of inspiration for our menu.
Has earning your Michelin stars changed your business, your cooking, your audience in any way?
HAWKER CHAN: It hasn’t changed my business much, but now I see more foreign customers. This is nice, because I have the chance to meet people from different countries who visit my stand.Since the Michelin Guide has rarely recognized a street food stall, I hope that this will bring more opportunity to other talented people in the culinary world.
CHRISTOPHER KOSTOW: Earning three Michelin stars has given us the confidence to explore our cooking and place.
Are there any foods or special ingredients that you grew up with that you now incorporate into your menu?
HAWKER CHAN: I learned about in the Soya Sauce that I pair with my chicken in depth when I worked under a chef in Hong Kong. He has wide knowledge of this, and I continuously improved and experimented with the sauce.
CHRISTOPHER KOSTOW: The opportunity to make your own rules. Good food exists in many forms now. We’re seeing good cooking at many price points and styles.
What dish you always make for your home / family?
HAWKER CHAN: Soup!
CHRISTOPHER KOSTOW: Skirt steak and roasted vegetables.