Singaporean chef Ian Goh clinches top three spot in global young chef competition
SINGAPORE - Local chef Ian Goh, 29, has clinched a coveted spot in the top three of the biennial S.Pellegrino Young Chef Academy Competition 2022-23 on Oct 5.
This is the fifth edition of the global search for young chefs, organised by Italian natural mineral water brand Sanpellegrino, which held its grand finals in Milan on Oct 4 and 5.
Mr Goh, the sous chef of one-Michelin-starred modern Korean restaurant Nae:um in Telok Ayer Street, was Asia’s sole representative - having won the regional finals in Bangkok in Oct 2022.
He competed against 14 other regional finalists from around the world, which included the winning chef Nelson Freitas, from Fifty Seconds restaurant in Lisbon, Portugal. Mr Freitas was representing Iberian Countries, which, in the competition, refers to Spain and Portugal. His winning dish featured crispy red mullet, sea urchin and black garlic.
The other chef in the top three was France’s representative - chef Camille Saint-M’leux of Villa9Trois restaurant in Montreuil.
Mr Goh - whose father is Hainanese and mother is Cantonese - also received a special Food For Thought Award, given to chefs who embody their personal culinary philosophies in their signature dishes.
He impressed the judging panel with his dish called Heritage Lamb that fully utilised a 20kg lamb carcass.
The dish included several components including a cabbage dumpling - inspired by chap chye - that was stuffed with braised lamb shoulder, housemade lamb bacon, pickled black fungus and pickled black carrots and served with a Hainanese mutton consomme.
The lamb belly item, braised in aged black vinegar, took inspiration from the popular pig’s trotter vinegar dish.
Lamb saddle, brined in cumin and Sichuan peppercorns, was served with raisin, mint chutney and cucumber salad in an oyster vinaigrette - a nod to tucking into Sichuan-style skewers for supper.
He credits his Australian chef-mentor Dave Pynt of barbecue restaurant Burnt Ends in Dempsey for pushing him throughout the training process and competition.
Speaking to The Straits Times from Milan, Mr Goh said: “Chef Dave can’t touch the food, but he stood and barked orders at me like a general. The atmosphere was loud and rowdy, but we were a well-oiled machine.”
After a “mentally draining” five hours of intense cooking, he had 15 minutes to present his dish to the judges, which included acclaimed chefs Riccardo Camanini of Lido 84 in Italy, Pia Leon of Kjolle in Peru, and Vicky Lau of Tate Dining Room in Hong Kong.
To complement the dish, his workbench was also decorated with beautifully-painted menu cards by an artist in Bangkok, as well as lamb head carcasses, alongside cute lamb plushies.
His Thai wife Arunrat Likitmungmongkol, 36, a junior sous chef at Resorts World Sentosa, was instrumental in organising the setup.
Mr Goh said he was advised by local restaurant Seroja’s chef-owner Kevin Wong to add such elements to garner more attention from the judges and media.
Mr Wong also made it to the top three of the 2019-2021 edition of the same competition, open to chefs aged 18 to 30.
Post-competition, Goh will be holidaying with his family, followed by a belated honeymoon with his wife.
At age 29, he noted that this was his last chance to participate before he turns 30, and that his “gamble paid off”.
He is also looking to groom future chefs like himself.
He added: “I want to train my juniors to do something like this, especially for the next regionals. If I can mentor them, that would be a great story.”