For one night only at SHATEC-TSR (The Sapling) Takeover on 21 June 2022, Michelin-starred Chef Haikal Johari revisited the kitchens of his alma mater to showcase his culinary flair, as the acclaimed Executive Chef of Spanish restaurant Alma by Juan Amador!
Photo Credit: Chef Haikal Johari
Chef Haikal had a breezy energy while he stayed on top of workflows handled by his young chefs from Alma (one of whom is also a SHATEC alum, Daniel Hariz Bin Hamza!).
Daniel Hariz, a chef-alumnus working under Chef Haikal at Alma.
That evening, SHATEC culinary and pastry trainees experienced working alongside the fine dining chefs, who delegated them a range of mise-en-place to food presentation and plating tasks.
Showing SHATEC’s pastry trainees how to begin dishing out Alma’s well-loved dessert: Cata Coffee Ice Cream Dessert paired with Kintoki Carrot, Dekopon Orange and Tarragon Oil.
When asked how he felt returning to present his menu, Chef Haikal, a ‘97 SHATEC alumnus mused, “I feel honoured to come back to the school after 26 years, it’s where it all started in my journey as a professional chef.”
Alma’s signature savoury potato bread, paired with Le Beurre Bordier Salted Butter. Kept pillowy soft and toasty in a box atop heated coffee beans, they lend a coffee fragrance to the breads too.
Trio of snacks, from left to right: #1 Tomatoes, Sour Plum, Elderflower Local Greens; #2 Hon Maguro, Dashi, Ponzu, Eggplant; #3 Kumamoto Beef, Brioche, Hijiki, Truffles. Ebiko (prawn roe) added to Tomatoes and the caviar-topped Hon Maguro (bluefin tuna), gave the snacks a moreish quality.
Featuring original creations with culinary influences from around Southeast Asia, Chef Haikal’s mod-European menu rushes forward with the firing of his courses. The dishes are assuredly pleasing to the eyes, handled with care and defined with the chef’s touch.
“Most dishes in this Takeover are served at our restaurant. I want our guests to taste the essence of what we offer at Alma,” Chef Haikal said.
Entrées which made the grade followed, with Hokkaido White Asparagus, Blanc-Manger topped with Ikura salmon caviar and flavoured with Blood Orange, and Tua Tua Clams. A sweet and light, savoury dish flavoured with Dill Oil.
Torched Gillardeau Oysters, Smoked Cream, Dill, Granny Smith green apple, with Edible Gel and Amur Caviar for a sensational finish.
Chef Haikal had found celebrity and success early on in Thailand, where he had spent 13 years in Bangkok working at fine dining restaurants, including the highly-acclaimed Water Library restaurants he helped establish. He was later handpicked by celebrity chef Juan Amador when he returned to Singapore after sustaining long-term effects in a road accident.
The undaunted wheelchair chef has since achieved recognition within Singapore’s culinary landscape, leading his team at Alma to retain its Michelin Star every year since the MICHELIN Guide Singapore launched in 2016.
Chef Haikal and The Sapling’s Operation Manager, Kevin conferring with each other to make the event a success.
Aburi Ocean Trout, buttery Koshihikari Rice, Daikon, Mustard, with a fried Taro/Yam Puff on the side, bringing an aroma reminiscent of an izakaya.
‘Cata’ Single Origin Coffee, Kintoki Carrots, Orange, Tarragon, mousse-style. Its unique blend of ingredients makes it an instant crowd-pleaser.
The cuisinier has advice for newcomers entering a culinary career, “They should think about what they want to pursue in life, and understand that the road to being a chef is hard, with a lot of sacrifices to be made. Read about the origin stories of successful chefs around the world, the challenges or failures they have had to bear to get to where they are today.”
For gastronomes in Singapore who are on the lookout for where to eat fine-dining-quality plates at an affordable price, be sure to book The Sapling restaurant’s upcoming guest chef Takeovers at SHATEC!
ABOUT SHATEC-TSR Takeover
SHATEC-TSR Takeover is the newest key industry partnership programme by SHATEC. This monthly initiative will spotlight successful young chefs who can acquire experience operating an F&B business with The Sapling Restaurant as a pilot platform.
Following the widely successful Gourmet Night at The Sapling which was suspended during the pandemic, SHATEC-TSR Takeover is a learning lab for final-year students to put their classroom skills and knowledge into practice while learning the latest culinary trends from the guest chefs.