April 16, 2009
Executive chef of Town Restaurant at Fullerton Hotel Morne Van Antwerp tells POON CHIAN HUI he likes integrating flavours from different cultures in his cooking
His love affair with cooking led him to the love of his life. Chef Morne Van Antwerp's culinary passion took him around the world, from his home country of South Africa to London and then to Canada.
It was at the Langdon Hall Country House Hotel and Spa in Toronto that he met the woman who became his wife, Sue Ann.
Said Mr Van Antwerp, 38, on the first time he saw her: 'She was in the kitchen, making pastry.'
He is now the executive chef of Town Restaurant at Fullerton Hotel and the couple have a two-year-old son.
Despite having worked in numerous countries, including exotic locations like the Maldives and Egypt, Mr Van Antwerp never fails to be amazed by new cultures.
Sure enough, one fond memory remains from the early days after his arrival in Singapore a year ago, when he visited a local wet market for the first time.
'I woke up at 5am and went to the fruit and vegetable market at Pasir Panjang,' he recalled. 'It was beautiful.'
It is no wonder that cultural elements feature strongly in this chef's cooking.
'I like to learn about the different smells and flavours and integrate them into my cooking,' he said.
This is why he has reinvented the classic nicoise salad by giving it an Asian flavour.
Instead of green beans and chicken eggs typically used in this French salad, he opted for sugar snap peas and quail eggs.
To top it off, he rolled the tuna fillet in togarashi, a Japanese spice blend that is made up of seven different spices, including roasted orange peel, red chilli pepper and seaweed.
'This salad is especially high in protein and iron,' said the chef. 'It is also suitable for diabetics and is both gluten-free and dairy-free.'
The protein comes from the tuna, which also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart.
In addition, the inclusion of fibrous foods such as tomatoes, olives and sugar snap peas provides an array of vitamins and minerals.
'As a chef, I think it's important to acknowledge the value of healthy eating,' said Mr Van Antwerp, who admits to being a health-conscious person.
The tuna nicoise salad is available at Town Restaurant on request.
One major misconception that people have about healthy food is that it is boring and bland, said the chef.
'Healthy doesn't have to be uninteresting,' he said. 'It can be more creative.'
TOGARASHI SPICED TUNA LOIN NICOISE SALAD
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
150g sugar snap peas
8 quail eggs, boiled and peeled
12 large olives
4 Roma tomatoes
100g yellow potatoes, sliced
20ml extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 packet basil leaves
360g blue-fin tuna loin
1 small jar togarashi (available at Japanese specialty stores)
Freshly ground white pepper
Pre-heat oven to 50 deg C. Pour togarashi on cling film and roll tuna on it to create a crust. Seal tuna with aluminium foil and refrigerate immediately.
Blanch sugar snap peas until al dente and refresh in iced water. Refrigerate. Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until tender. Refrigerate.
Blanch cherry tomatoes in boiling water, then refresh in iced water. Remove the skin and lay out on an oven tray with roughly chopped garlic, thyme and olive oil. Season with sea salt and freshly ground white pepper. Bake at 50 deg C for one hour.
Blanch Roma tomatoes and refresh in iced water. Remove skin. Cut off the top and bottom of each tomato and slice into long, thin strips.
Take tuna out of fridge and unwrap foil. Pan-sear fillet in olive oil at medium heat for 30 seconds. Remove from pan and slice into 1/2-inch thick slices. Assemble all ingredients and garnish with fresh basil. Season with sea salt and pepper. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on dish.