Chef Name: Tristin Farmer
Title: Executive Chef
3 Michelin stars; No. 23, Asia’s 50 best restaurants
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
I left school and started cooking professionally when I was 16 years old. It was something I wanted to do from an early age, so I left school and went straight into cooking as soon as I could.
I started off by going to catering college full time – this was three days per week and a one-day internship at The Peat Inn. But I was never stimulated enough, so I joined The Peat Inn full time and continued college simultaneously.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
I remember the aroma and anticipation of apple crumble in the oven. I used to always insist on having both vanilla custard and ice cream with it.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
I have been inspired by and deeply respected all the chefs I have worked for. But the chef that always sticks in my mind was David Wilson from The Peat Inn. He changed careers in his 30s, trained in France as a commis chef and opened a small restaurant – The Peat Inn. After around 15 years of hard work, he was one of the first restaurants in Scotland to win a Michelin star.
When I worked for David, he was always up early to open the restaurant, then be the last to leave every day. He was incredibly dedicated and gave so many opportunities to young chefs. He eventually retired to the French Rivera in his mid 70s.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
I’m planning to purchase a new bookshelf soon, as I’m running out of space.
Two that I have read multiple times though, are Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain and The French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller.
Now that I’m thinking about them, maybe I’ll pull them out this weekend.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
Come on… only two ingredients??? How can I only choose two, that wouldn’t be a very extensive repertoire for a chef.
But if you push me, it would have to be salt and coffee.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
Sunday breakfast – omelette, sourdough bread, charcuterie, avocado and tomato salad, and some fresh-brewed coffee, of course.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
I would give anything to go back in time to dine at El Bulli, but a current restaurant open today would be Sukiyabashi Jiro in Tokyo.
And who would you take as your guest?
It would be really cool to go out for dinner with Kevin Hart. But once my son is old enough to dine out in a 3-star restaurant, I will take you wee man…
What do you look for in a good chef?
Humble, honest, hard-working and loyal.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
Don’t come into this industry chasing 100k Instagram followers and wanting to open your own place after culinary school.
Find a good restaurant to work in with a passionate chef. Work hard, stay loyal and work through the ranks. Hard work pays off.
How has the pandemic affected your restaurant? And how did you adapt and evolve throughout?
We have been through so many challenges in the past two years, in total we have had six months of restaurant lockdowns. We have had to learn to adapt and move into a different style of operation with 36 hours’ notice.
The main thing I have taken from these challenges has been to stay positive, and take each problem as it comes. Our main objective was to stay together as a team and be honest and transparent, supporting everyone both emotionally and financially.
Can you share any wisdom from the experience so far with others? Have you changed? Has your cooking changed?
I would say I have matured. I’ve learned to adapt and develop as a manager/mentor, and have had to think outside the box a lot over the past two years. But it hasn’t changed my cooking style.
Chef Tristin Farmer is Executive Chef at Restaurant Zén
Address: 41 Bukit Pasoh Rd, Singapore
Telephone: +65 6534 8880
mymuybueno Visits: Frantzén