Makansutra: Big, bold flavours at Big Bern’s
Its southern US-style fare is still unforgettable at its new outlet
He hails from Detroit, Michigan, in the US and once traversed across the country on his Harley Davidson and Honda Gold Wing motorbikes with that born-to-be-wild spirit.
When he felt the need to get out of his comfort zone and travelled to Asia, the former electric wireline formation test specialist never looked back.
Mr Bernie Utchenik settled in Singapore and set up his American-style chain of eateries which he "prefers being located in coffee shops".
Feeling that the range of Western food here was an unfinished story, he successfully went from Bernie's to Botak Jones, then sold it after almost 20 years and wanted to walk into the sunset with his Singaporean-Muslim wife Zee.
But Mr Utchenik still has bills to pay, so he continued with Big Bern's at Timbre+.
All this from a man who has never been in the food and beverage business before.
He is now pushing 70 and is still at it - big, bald and bold, almost stubbornly so.
He has moved from a Harley Davidson to "hardly a Davidson", a pet name he gave the mobile wheelchair he zips around in as his ailments and age catch up.
Zee now runs the show while Mr Utchenik shows up to curate and refine the southern US-style menu and recipes.
He recently opened the second outlet of Big Bern's at Gluttons Bay, and I note the consistency in the unforgettable food.
The signature best-seller Cajun Chicken ($7.80) is grilled and comes springy soft and moist, topped with melted cheddar and a spicy Cajun sauce (hints of cayenne powder, garlic, pepper and even oregano), with a hearty side of salad and fries.
The mind-boggling Lotsa Chicken Platter set ($18) consists of three pieces of grilled chicken in three flavours - cajun, black pepper and mushrooms sauce - with sides of garlic rice and salad, and is a feast for at least two.
The beef steak is another comforting favourite, and Mr Utchenik shrugged at just how thin most of the steak is offered at other places here.
The thicker slab of Prime Steer Rib Eye ($24.50) is well-seared and juicy within (state your choice of done-ness) and a blob of herb butter rests atop with Cajun fries and salad.
It is difficult to hate this one, unless you are beef intolerant.
The Double Beef Cheese Burger ($18) looks like a heartburn you won't mind having - two beefy patties encased in a molten cheese with salad, greens and fries.
The pick-and-match menu allows you to choose any two side dishes with the main dish you order, from buttered sweet corn kernels, pasta salad, buttered dill rice, crinkle fries and more.
This helps to make the whole dish feel a little different each time you try it.
When I asked if they will be coming up with new stuff to up the ante, Zee said: "Southern Fried Chicken, coming soon."
A dish that is very welcoming with mass appeal. I can't wait.
Gluttons Bay, 8 Raffles Avenue
Opens 3pm to 10.30pm daily