From Prison to Michelin Kitchen: Singaporean Chef Settles in Bangkok with Modern Asian Concept | Bangkok Foodies
Journey by Chef Enoch, a New Singaporean - inspired, Modern Asian Cuisine Restaurant to Open in Ekkamai , Bangkok
There’s is something that Bangkok has never really found a successful niche for and that is for Singaporean cuisine. Apart from the odd self proclaimed “Singaporean” Hainanese Chicken or noodle and dumpling shop pandering to Expats or Thais looking to reminisce of their foodie travels in the ‘Garden City’, there’s little that instantly stands out or comes to mind when naming any exceptional Singaporean-influenced restaurants.
Eddie Yii of ‘Stranger in Bangkok’, a popular Bangkok based blogger, who is Malaysian but grew up in Singapore, says of this lack of availability, “I think no one has really made it cool yet, for the locals, most Singapore food places are still mainly servicing the Singapore/Malaysia Expat crowd”. When Bangkok Foodies asked Eddie where he thought served close-to-legit Singaporean cuisine in Bangkok, he answered, “Chuan Kitchen, but they are near IMPACT, which is not in Bangkok’s city center. The curry puff from powerpuff.bkk for example is outstanding and the closest you get to commercial Singaporean food would probably be Boon Tong Kee chicken rice and Song Fa Bak Kut Teh, but they are already considered big-ish chains in SG”
But things are looking to switch up since Chef Enoch Teo has quietly crept onto the scene with a new restaurant concept, Journey by Chef Enoch. Enoch, is a native Singaporean who moved to Bangkok to open his dine-in concept in Ekkamai , which is now paused due to COVID-19.
However, the restaurant is currently offering Enoch’s Singaporean-inspired cuisine by delivery instead. “I am actually quite fortunate that during COVID-19, the restaurant in Bangkok was not open yet. It definitely slowed down the process and affected my livelihood and forced me and my partners into making unprecedented decisions such as only launching a delivery menu during the restaurant opening.“
No stranger to adversity, Chef Enoch’s teenage years was heavily steeped in drugs and crime, Enoch sought solace in a rebelliousness triggered by his ADHD condition, he recalls, “I was diagnosed with ADHD (a learning disability) at the age of 10 years old, I struggled in school, didn’t do well in academics and also struggled expressing myself to people around me. I started to become very rebellious in school, fighting, stealing and going against my teachers and parents. Eventually I dropped out of school at the age of 14.”
From 15 years of age, Enoch’s criminal career started, joining a local gang where he felt acceptance and belonging. What started off as fun and camaraderie, turned to drugs and serious crime. Inevitably, Enoch eventually found himself in prison and that’s when his life changed forever.
Enoch said of his harrowing experience, “When I was sentenced to 6 months in jail and another 6 months in a halfway house for breaking into a car and testing positive for illegal drugs, I realised that the only people who would visit me were my family. I met many people in jail and halfway houses who had been in and out of jail repeatedly for 30 to 40 years, their family had given up on them, most of them had lost their purpose in life. I realised I really didn’t want to end up like that. Prior to jail, I had already worked as a cook in a Chinese and Japanese restaurant, so I made a decision to focus on a culinary career after I was released.”
After Enoch’s incarceration, he took all the energy he had spent into recklessness and self-sabotage and channeled it into a full blossoming Chef career. Enoch brightens, “The first Michelin starred restaurant I worked for was Restaurant Andre for 6 months as an apprentice. The last restaurant I worked for before I started my own business was at Les Amis Restaurant for 18 months. It was an unforgettable experience and I feel it was my “bootcamp” as a chef, without it, I don’t think I would be the chef I am today.”
Today Chef Enoch finds himself in a challenging time and position, launching a restaurant business in a foreign country which has not yet warmed to his type of cuisine, but with everything he approaches, he goes into his this new venture with full conviction and wholeheartedness, “I liked the food culture, people and saw a huge opportunity in the F&B business here. One big draw factor for me was the availability of fresh local ingredients. In Singapore, we do not have a big agriculture industry and most of our ingredients and products are imported.”
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Moreover, Chef Enoch did not get to this point to produce mainstream Singaporean cuisine or fall into the Chicken and Rice or homestyle Rendang beef in a box, he explains, “The concept of Journey by Chef Enoch is inspired by my roots and experience growing up in Singapore. Here, I take traditional Asian dishes from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, China and other Asian countries that I have visited, adding some twists and reinventing them”, but what will be so special about Journey by Chef Enoch when Bangkokians can access vibrant Thai food and casual Singaporean dishes?
Chef Enoch responds, “My cuisine is modern, however still keeping and respecting the fundamentals of the traditional dish. I do them by introducing modern techniques to the execution of cooking with European techniques like sous vide and confit. I also bring out the optimum flavours, textures and colours to dish without artificial flavourings or colouring, I do this by precise slow cooking over extensive periods.
Chef Enoch informs Bangkok Foodies that their takeaway and delivery sales have already exceeded their expectations, with the Pork Jowl Charsiu, Crispy Sio Bak, Beef Rendang and the Duck Confit with Red Curry already crowd favourites. We can attest at the Bangkok Foodies office, our most highly favoured dishes were the succulent but full-of-bite Moo krob and the deeply layered flavour of the Beef Rendang.
Enoch relays in detail the cooking process, “For the Moo Krob, most people do crispy pork, or “moo krob” by just roasting it at high temperatures or deep frying it in fat but the meat is usually drier. For this, I also slow cook it sous vide for 48 hours before cooking it on high heat to crisp up the skin with no added fat, only using the natural fat of the pork. For this dish, I have adopted a reverse cooking method in which I cook it through to my desired tenderness before carefully applying high heat to reach the end product. It is a longer and more tedious product but I believe it is worth it.” The menu will also feature dishes reflecting a Thai-inspired flair with two of Chef Enoch’s favourite Thai meals, the “Kheng Phet Ped Yang” and “Kalampi Tord Nampla”, but of course, with Enoch’s personal touch.
Not only has Enoch moved on successfully with his own life but has developed and run a social enterprise as a form of “giving back” to his family, ex bosses and society. This initiative offers a chance to those who may be struggling with their own personal demons or physical or psychological issues.
Enoch said, “I set up a social enterprise E & I Food Concepts Pte Ltd in Singapore to provide training and employment for youth offenders, youth from underprivileged backgrounds and people with disability. Like myself, they still deserve a shot at living a meaningful and purposeful life as long as they are willing to put in their effort to learn, change and overcome their obstacles. To date, E & I Food Concepts has successfully trained and helped reform over 40 beneficiaries in 4 years and was nominated as the President’s Challenge Social Enterprise of the Year 2017.”
The next step in Enoch’s journey here in Bangkok will be to finally serve customers at his new restaurant, slated to open in mid or late July 2020 and with everything he has done and experienced to get food on the plate, we do hope Chef Enoch and his team the very best.
How can you order Journey by Chef Enoch?
Through LINE Official account @journeyth or FoodPanda.
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Journey by Chef Enoch
3 Sukhumvit Rd Watthana,
Bangkok 10110 Thailand