March 15, 2009
Chocolate, any which way
That is what hotel executive Adam Haywood says he can eat for the rest of his life
By Fiona Low
The Sentosa Resort & Spa's food and beverage director Adam Haywood spends his time entertaining guests and running its three classy restaurants. But if he has to, this gentle-looking man could butcher a cow too.
The New Zealander first worked part-time at a butcher shop in Christchurch after school when he was 13. He wanted to earn enough to buy his own motorcycle.
'And I wanted to get my hands dirty,' he says with a laugh.
Five years and one apprenticeship later, he gained a trade certificate in butchery there.
The 34-year-old has come a long way since. An experienced chef who moved to Singapore last September, he now manages The Cliff, The Terrace and The Garden at the resort on Sentosa.
Trained in cookery at Oxford College in England, he worked for more than 15 years as a chef in various countries, including five-star resort Outrigger On The Lagoon in Fiji, as well as luxury hotel Westin Langkawi in Malaysia.
Cooking is in his blood as both his mother and grandmother were excellent cooks. Under his mother's tutelage, he could bake his own Belgian biscuits - spiced biscuits with raspberry jam and icing - by the time he was 10.
He now lives in Singapore with his Chinese wife, a senior executive with a car company, whom he met while working in Malaysia.
What did you enjoy eating most as a child?
Apart from raw cookie dough, cakes, biscuits and anything sweet, I was always partial to a caramel lolly which I used to bribe my sister into buying for me. Another New Zealand favourite is the Buzz Bar, a chocolate-coated marshmallow bar, ideally served cold from the freezer so it is chewier.
Did you rely on your cooking skills to woo your wife?
Only if I got into her bad books. But otherwise not really, because I was living in a hotel then and I did not have my own kitchen, so it was quite difficult to cook. In fact, she used to cook for me very often. Her roast chicken and Chinese dishes such as steamed fish with ginger and soy sauce are to die for.
What is your favourite dish to cook for your wife?
A good English-style breakfast on a Sunday morning with bacon, eggs, lots of bread, grilled tomatoes and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
What food is a must-try for visitors to New Zealand?
A very traditional style of food during celebrations is the Maori hangi, which is cooked underground on hot coals. It includes kumara (sweet potato), chicken, pork, lamb and other vegetables. The smoky flavour of the hangi is delicious.
What is your favourite Singaporean dish?
Hainanese chicken rice. The combination of rice and chicken is nice and tasty. I like the steamed chicken better than the roasted one and I enjoy it with black sauce and lots of ginger. I'm not a big fan of the chilli, though, because it's a bit too spicy for me.
I like Wee Nam Kee in Thomson Road and I eat there about once every fortnight.
If you had to choose one single item to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I love chocolate. I can't get enough of it. I like it any way - hot, cold, cooked or uncooked.
What is the strangest item you have ever eaten?
Possum, a small marsupial which is a pest in New Zealand. I tried it once when I was planning my menu for the Monteiths Wild Food Challenge, a beer and wild food matching competition held annually in New Zealand. It was quite tough and there was not a great deal of flavour. It tasted like a great lump of rubber, actually.
Which do you enjoy more, being a chef or a director of food and beverage?
I don't enjoy one more than the other because they are both different. I loved being a chef because of the creativity and flair a chef can have, but I also love being an F&B director. Coming up with new concepts and seeing how they evolve and change over time is the best part of the job.
What is your favourite dish out of the three restaurants that you manage now?
That has to be the Organic Chicken Rice we serve at The Garden (above). Our chef has done a great job reinventing this classic dish.
It comprises ginger-soy marinated organic chicken breast, which is prepared using a cooking technique known as sous vide. The cooked meat is then sliced into three cylindrical portions and topped with crisp rice cakes. The dish is presented with sauteed kai lan.
This is a healthy dish with a unique flavour and, of course, the presentation is really sexy. Nothing like the chicken rice we eat outside.
WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?
Apple crumble, the way my mum makes it - with cinnamon sprinkled over the top and eaten with vanilla bean ice cream. Heavenly.