At first glance, Michael Han is not your typical chef: quiet, soft-spoken and shy, not to mention a law degree holder. No trace of the Gordon Ramsey-esque ‘tough love’ qualities can you see in this young man. However, ask him a question about his restaurant, FiftyThree, and why he decided to pursue a career in cooking and you will find the commitment, passion, and above all, dedication to excellence in his answers about good food and cooking that define all the great chefs of the world.
Michael began his career in cooking gradually, starting at home-grown fine dining restaurant Au Jardin before moving on to stints at The Fat Duck, L’Enclume and Anthony’s in England, Mugaritz in San Sebastian, Spain and Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark. His cooking style reflects both his personality and broad range of training. It also underlies his openness to using a wide range of ingredients from both Europe and Asia.
Very much inspired by the natural environment, he believes purity of flavour, lightness and different combinations of playful textures are central to his cooking whilst employing modern cooking techniques and sciences to achieve these objectives. When asked why, of all places, did he decide to open a restaurant in Singapore, he simply answered, ‘It’s home.’ Rare indeed in this day and age is it to find a young man determined enough to travel the atypical and unbeaten path to realize his dream in a country where finding the right quality of ingredients can still be a struggle.
Perhaps the one thing that separates Michael from his peers is his constant desire for perfection coupled with a work ethic that is almost unheard of in Singapore. Working 16 to 18 hour days, his entire being is focused on exploring cooking techniques and exciting new ingredients that will unquestionably turn FiftyThree into a restaurant renowned for its innovation and above all, great food. Since it’s opening in 2009, Michael has been nominated for the Would Gourmet Summit Awards of Excellence ‘Rising Chef of the Year’ in 2010 and 2011, with FifityThree nominated as ‘Best Restaurant’ in 2011. Notably, FiftyThree was featured as one of World’s 50 Best Restaurants ‘Regional Spotlight – Singapore’, and on CNNgo.com Best Eats 2010 as Singapore’s Best Gourmet Restaurant of 2010.
Anyway, this next installment of the Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows series will be a rocking party, held on the 26th – 28th of September 2012 in the gorgeous, gorgeous island of Penang! (Read about our previous experiences here and here). I cannot wait to see how they transform the beautiful chapel of St. Joseph’s Novitiate into the dinner venue. Flanked by Gurney Drive and Kelawai Road, this historic building was built in 1925 as quarters for novices for St. Joseph’s Training College. True to form and the elegance that surrounds all Hennessy X.O Appreciation Grows events, we will be flown out to Penang for this dinner, and I for one, cannot wait.
The deconstruction of Penang cuisine by Michael, the stunning locality of St. Joseph’s Novitiate and the delicious cognac Hennessy X.O used as part of this innovative cuisine should be a night to remember. Stay tuned for a on the spot update of the cuisine and dinner event!
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