Hi, my name is Ivan and I’m a chef. I’m also a food evangelist. All the time I’ve dedicated in the kitchen, toiling away at hot stoves and ovens has led me on this path today, where I’ve just discovered an incredible new food and I’m about to share it with you right here, right now. It’s a food so nutrient dense and good for you that you wouldn’t be able to believe it was true. You’d think I’d be lying because, how could something so incredibly life changing actually exist? Nevermind that it’s even cheap and easy to prepare! Mind blowing indeed.

It’s something that was cultivated since ancient times in the Niger river delta but what’s really interesting is how good it tastes. It’s the first superfood I’ve had that I didn’t stop to think, well I need to work on this. No it’s just perfect by itself and it’s so simple to prepare that anyone could do it.

And you know what? I’m going to share that incredible secret with you. When I first realised what I had worked on, I was overwhelmed. This was it. It was the holy grail. It will bring us salvation and it’s name, is Oryza.

I know what you’re thinking. But… what is Oryza? Oryza is available in a few forms, the two most common being Oryza sativa and Oryza glaberrima. The former is more suitable for pregnant women and children or the elderly because it’s got a less complex structure and is easier to digest. Both strains are still incredibly amazing because Oryza is an ancient grain that has been known in the past as a cure-all because of how MANY benefits it has but not only that, it’s also incredibly delicious, which is not something you can say for so many other so-called superfoods. This is the real deal, it’s the be all and end all and big business won’t tell you about it because it’s too good to be true.

But that’s exactly what it is. Not only is oryza sustainable and biodynamically produced, it’s a greenhouse gas diffuser and encourages ecodiversity in the natural environment. Not to mention the fact that it’s inexpensive. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, can get on the health train today. The major food producers know about Oryza and how amazing it is but they can’t make much money at all so they’d rather sell you things like spelt or farro instead and keep Oryza on the DL. I’m here to blow that spot up for good because in my personal experience and in my work and my passion, I’ve found that it’s too incredible to keep under wraps.

My friends and family have already started to enjoy the benefits and sublime taste that is oryza. I’ve made them oryza pilaf, oryza puddings, wok fried oryza, oryza salad, oryza dumplings. I’ve served it with raw fish and also, my personal favourite, with 72 hour 65 degree poached chicken. The flavour is incredible. I’ve made a “flour” by grinding oryza and making into noodles and pasta and wontons. I’ve macro-fermented it and used it in marinades, pastes and sauces. It’s gluten and allergen free. It’s virtually fat free and any fat is the good food essential for our bodies. It’s low sodium and high peptide. It’s macrobiotic. It’s probiotic. It’s neodynamic. It’s incredible and there’s so much stuff I want to write but I’ve got to keep it restrained or I’d be publishing my thesis paper on the subject right here!

It’s reduced the chance of cancer for so many people in controlled tests. We did a chemical component breakdown and were just shocked at what we found. It’s packed full of so many essential vitamins and minerals and also the incredibly rare nutrients, lutein and zeaxanthin, crucial for brain development and liver function. Most intriguingly, it also contains Panthothenic Acid, which helps synthesize coenzyme A in proteins, something that nothing else on earth does, making it essential in aiding our digestion because coenzyme A is better known in the health industry as “skin glow” because that’s what it does. It makes your skin literally glow. Seriously.

So at this point, I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, “Ivan, where can I get this amazingness?”. Well fret no longer because I will tell everyone now. For the low, low price of $9.99 (subject to conditions and approval listed), you too can jump on this right now and see a newer, slimmer, healthier, sexier and more satisfied you. I’ll personally send you 1 kilogram of vacuum packed oryza along with a book chockfull of my recipes and philosophy. But don’t listen to me because honestly, if you’ve had one bite of oryza after following the incredible recipes listed in my book, you’ll know that it just sells itself. Your tastebuds can thank me later.

Did I mention it’s also easy? It’s a no brainer. You just add water and voila, it’s done. No messing about. So simple and so delicious even my kids have picked up how to prepare oryza. Everything, all 365 recipes, one for each day of the year is contained in a well organised book with glossary and simple, delicious, effective and healthy recipes. The methods are simple and you know what, I even provide email support. Yes, you can email me your queries if you need any help at all or even if you’re just slightly curious. And that support is provided gratis, free even if you’re not convinced by the low price and the high value ratio. Absolutely free because I believe one good deed begets another and this is the mother of all good deeds.

If you do have any questions, do email me with them and any other comments you may have along with your bank details to winning@life.com. Don’t hesitate because your life could change irrevocably.

The ultimate tea house. This references my mom’s dad’s old coffeeshop and also the HK teahouses like you see in Hard Boiled and actual restaurants like Nom Wah Tea Parlor in NYC. It’s really comprised of 3 spaces, a double storey shop with a hole in the wall joining the kitchen next door. This is a money no object type blue sky thing.

The centerpiece of the restaurant is an edge to edge chamfered cool grey faux marble table top with a filligree covered heavy brown wooden base. Like a classic Chinese coffeshop/teahouse. This is an eight seater with a lazy susan or a 3 x 2 top with a vase carrying a singular fake orange sunflower. The side wall will be a full length mirror with burgundy banquette seating, preferably second hand and patched up with vinyl in a slightly different shade here and there. The back wall is painted in a faded imperial edict yellow with posters of Anita Mui, Faye Wong, Chow Yun Fatt, The Young And Dangerous, Leslie Cheung and a Yue Minjun piece, preferably off TaoBao. Distinctly 90s/00s retro.

There’s also two columns in the middle painted the same yellow, with my imaginary progeny’s 6th place award for violin decomposition as well as one of those awful inspirational slogan posters. Like THERE IS NO I IN TEAM, except it’s in Chinese, which would simply be cryptic and senseless. Or like MOTIVATION or Don’t Let Your Dreams Be Dreams. Also, we’ll have a 1990s style bad photoshop version of a crew photo with Tony Abbott and someone scrawling TONY DA PONY, KILLAH PRIEST in neon pink marker.

Most of the other seating will be simple rectangle linoleum covered tables in some awkward shade of greige with Thonet No. 18s that we will Maarten Baas the fuck out of with Bernzomatic TS-8000s. If they fall apart, we’ll sorta Macgyver them back with sticky tape and bluetack. Each and every table will get a condiment/cutlery/napkin holder with Koon Yick Wah Kee chilli sauce and some vinegar and soy and chilli oil, custom melamine chopsticks and soup spoons and discount store metal and acetate handled cutlery. Upstairs is more of the same, shitty tables, shitty chairs, banquette seating in dark emerald this time and more natty posters and awkward time capsule stuff with little meaning and the odd smattering of something absurdly trendy or funny. Same bloody mirrored wall running the same side as well but a bronzed finish so it’s more old timey Shanghai 1930s but we’ll have neon lights in pink as well on the opposite wall that spell out the restuarant’s name, which is TBD. I’m thinking Cha Lou Zha Fit. At an extensive stretch, it sounds like Chateau Lafite? Cept if you know what zha fit means in Cantonese. You know we gon have our own label of cask wine tho.

Hanging off the ceiling, we’ll have ratty chandeliers that are just not quite straight. Super inspired by Le Chateaubriand. The floor, likewise, will have existing cracked tiles because the workers were careless. The stairs will run over the bar, which will have 3 seats so if you’re by yourself, you don’t feel like a complete idiot next to a stranger because there’s a seat in between. Next to the bar, is a faded pale aqua tea shelf, full to the brim with miscellaneous tea knick knacks, some hypermodern pottery from Japan via plusminuszero and some from flea markets. We’ll stock all the different combos of tea, but we’ll specialize in Pu Erh because duh. Next to this shelf is the entrance to the kitchen, which will have like Wild West style swinging wooden doors to annoy and piss off the servers. Otherwise, this hole in the wall will be painted pitch black and feel like a portal to another realm, which it is.

Once you step through the blacked out passage, you’ll enter an ultra clean and bright kitchen with a man sized stainless steel island workbench you can jump onto with flour flying everywhere. We’ll have all mod cons. Circulators, Induction stoves, 2 wok burners, a charcoal grill, a steamer section, a deep fryer and 20 $6/hr imported slaves or 40 stagiers plus me wielding a conductor’s wand a la Harry Potter. NO ONE sees the kitchen except staff. We’ll have giant black dildos hanging conspicuously off one wall near the entrance as a deterrent.

We’ll serve some sort of pan Chinese modernist style type dim sum/small dishes crap with like cumin lamb brain skewers, Szechuan style hot oil seared aburi white fish and like an egg custard you steam in a rice bowl lined with cling. You sorta unmould the thing onto a plate and you get the tian dish look and then it gets some light soy type dressing. It’ll probably be like king crab on top hiding a emulsion of salted egg yolk and accented with lettuce. There will be no fucking steamer trolleys manned by old ladies. The staff will be old ladies who don’t speak English and trained to be rude and unhelpful. They will wear tee shirts emblazoned with prints of random gangster hiphop acts. The manager is gonna be either a)a dude dressed up like Lo Pan in Big Trouble In Little China OR b)a crossdresser pretending to be Maggie Cheung in In The Mood For Love.

The menu itself will feature a retro style 1930s font for the CHATOUZHAFIT logo and then revert to something legible and simple. All the dishes will have OTT colourful names like Crouching Dragon Sucking The Giant Marble or Invisible Plate Of Food That Burns Hole In Wallet or when we send out nonsense with liquid nitrogen or dry ice, it’ll be like Gimmicky Vapors Swell my Purse.

When we do have our big opening, we’ll blast some Mobb Deep and have a lion dance troupe sliding down the stairs with twin tec 9s and firecrackers going off on a Sonos speaker. Then they like grab the cabbage and we dole out the red packets and shit. Oh yeah and fucking fortune cookies man. Gotta have those for mignardises and with more inspirational quotes hidden within. Like “There Is No Try, Do Or Do Not” – Chinese Guy.

Aziz Ansari’s new sitcom for Netflix, Master Of None, is really just an extension of some of his existing material in his standups but that’s a good thing. It’s very 2015 for lack of a better description. There’s cool music, the ideas are left and progressive, some of the humour is just ridiculously inane and some of it particularly relatable. For me anyway, an Asian dude living in a white country.

Speaking of ethnicity, one of the episodes deals with the issue that you could never have a show with two Indian guys on it because that’s not what the demographic wants to see, it just becomes an Indian show instead of something that could be awesome. It’d just get stereotyped. And whilst MoN has got more than one Indian guy, it is also keenly self aware that the 4 leads are an Indian guy, a Chinese guy, a white guy and a black lesbian. Two in one on that last one. REPRESENT.

Anyway, what I really wanted to get at was this scene where Aziz talks to Rachel about first and second bands and Rachel was like Johnny Cash and Pavement. Aziz was like, no way, that’s too cool to be true. His was the soundtrack to Beauty and the Beast and Vanilla Ice’s To The Extreme.

This got me to thinking about my first album. My first LP on my hand me down walkman was, like Aziz, a soundtrack. Back To The Future from way back in ’85. My favourite track was Johnny B. Goode. My second LP was… I can’t even fucking remember what my second LP was but pretty sure it wasn’t anything cool. Oh maybe Duran Duran and then later Take That.

Gotta say, if I had a sitcom and I had to come up with music, I don’t think I’d get 10% as good as what MoN achieved. Beach House reps the show’s title, there’s fuckin’ Serge Gainsbourg, there’s Aphex Twin, there’s Toto, there’s Mark Morrison, there’s Pete Rock & CL Smooth, there’s William Onyeabor, Emmylou Harris, The Cure… you get the picture.

There’s just so much good music out there. Like there’s so many good things out there. Like if you started life knowing you’d only ever listen to 12841 albums in your entire life… You have to start picking but then you’d spend time picking and waste your life. So, just listen I guess and try to avoid stuff I don’t really like. And get into jazz again. Get into that Ornette Coleman thing.

Also, Lena Waithe is really wise and Lynn Cohen is really cool.

How do I know that I’ve been in Australia for a bit? Well. when I read the spiel on a house for sale, I not only understand it, I know when to ignore it entirely. The following is a brief breakdown of the jargon that real estate agents use consistently to paint a nicer picture of the shithole they’re trying to dump on you.

  • Leafy Surrounds > It’s in the middle of nowhere
  • Urban Setting > Your neighbours are druggies/homeless
  • Quiet > It’s really in the middle of nowhere
  • Popular > It’s next to a pub
  • Quaint > It’s in a shit neighbourhood
  • Heritage Listed > It’s falling apart and you can’t renovate
  • Views > It’s got windows
  • Art Deco > It’s really old
  • Well Appointed > It’s got electricity hooked up
  • Contemporary > It’s painted black
  • Modern but Classic > They painted over something old
  • Superb Location > It’s next to the freeway
  • Architect Designed > So ugly the guy involved didn’t want his name on it
  • Manicured Gardens > It’s overrun by weeds
  • Within A Short Stroll / Stone’s Throw > 30 minute walk to the bus / train
  • Covered Parking > There’s a tree out the front
  • Near Great Restaurants > There’s a kebab shop open late
  • Eat in Kitchen > There’s no dining room
  • Leafy Outlook > There’s a tree blocking your view
  • Stunning Contemporary Design > It’s painted grey
  • European Appliances > Upcycled Former Soviet Era Electric Stove
  • Secure Parking > If you have a padlock
  • Close To Schools > A lot of speed bumps
  • Polished Timber Floor > Previous occupier spilled oil on the floor
  • Air Conditioning > There’s a few windows
  • Built Ins > Creaky cupboards infested with termites
  • Waterfront > It’s next to the sewage treatment facility
  • Split Level > Lots of stairs
  • Tropical Gardens > There’s a palm tree
  • Seamless / Open Plan Living > There’s no walls
  • Generous Bedroom > It just fits a standard size bed
  • Generous Living Room > It fits a two seat sofa
  • Modern Toilets > It’s a sit down toilet
  • Alarm System > The previous owner left the wind chime behind
  • Rare Opportunity > I really need to sell this]
  • Bright > No privacy
  • Private > No windows
  • Sleek > It’s got some stainless steel
  • North facing > The common corridor faces north
  • South facing > You’re not getting any light
  • Industrial > There’s a hole in the wall
  • Solid Timber > Termites
  • Well Orientated > It’s there
  • Ideal for Downsize > It’s tiny
  • Perfect For First Home Buyers > It’s fucking tiny
  • Sun Drenched > There’s a window
  • Intelligent > Someone drew a plan
  • Alfresco Entertaining > The dining room is outside
  • Flow > Lots of corridors
  • Federation > Really old
  • Stunning Period Features > The roof is falling off
  • Designer > They copied the IKEA catalogue
  • Soaring Ceilings > There’s no roof
  • Ornate Fireplace > The old sealed up fireplace is covered in cobwebs
  • Good Sized > Smaller than generous
  • Spacious > If you manage to put the bed in, you can also stand in the room
  • Chic > Leftover IKEA
  • Boutique > Really really really small
  • Genuine > It’s a bit gritty
  • Long Term Potential > No one will ever buy this
  • Short Term Potential > It’s haunted
  • Sought After > Pests
  • Gas Cooking > On a portable stove
  • Shared Laundry > Laundromat nearby
  • Peaceful > It’s not near anything
  • Immaculate > Dusty

I could go on but this was like a 5 minute gander at the biggest website. Just so you know what you’re getting. That quaint, well appointed apartment located at the rear of a boutique block of 4 with the sun drenched master bedroom and good sized study with seamless living is really not all that. It’s a one bedroom no dining no living no toilet no parking with a 30 minute walk to the carpark in the suburb with the highest murder rate and 1900s appliances. That’s assuming you managed to beat off the negatively geared Chinaman by 7 figures and remembered that you’ve got to pay stamp duty and loan insurance and hired the pest inspectors and the fire checks and then you learn it’s rat and termite infested and it’s better to demolish and rebuild so you go ahead except you’re told by council that it’s heritage listed and you’re down 7 figures plus strata fees to pay some outsourced non-English speaker to answer a phone. Happy house hunting!

I just read this ridiculous article that came up with a list of countries where the food is “surprisingly” good. Whilst places like Sweden, Hungary and Georgia would never be top of anyone’s lists for great grub, most of the others are just retarded. I mean, someone actually thinks that food in Mexico, America, China and fucking Japan won’t be good…

You could eat well out of a convenience store regardless of which little town you go to in Japan, nevermind the myriad starred and highly rated restaurants. The cuisine is in the top 5 in the world regardless of whether you’re talking fine or street. It’s arguably the best imho. It’s also dominated the modern culinary landscape in terms of giving the rest of the world new ideas and approaches when it comes to food and cooking. So much of the world owes their newfound creativity to chefs going to Japan, finding out it’s awesome and returning home reinvigorated. You’d have to be some kind of tunnel dwelling time traveller to not expect great food in Japan.

I could go on and on about Chinese food or American or whatever but what really intrigued me was when I posed myself the question where I think I’d find surprisingly good food. Well I’m not so well travelled that I could come up with a convincing answer about places with unexpectedly good food. What countries would defy your expectations?

I suppose if I put it that way, it’s all down to wealth. There is no way in hell that if you find yourself in a rich city, that the food would be bad. You could say that one city has better food than another but you can’t say any big city really has bad food. That’s just nigh impossible unlikely to happen. On the other hand, if you went to a third world country, say somewhere where famine is a major issue, then you’d expect that any food would place emphasis on survival over taste.

Noticeably, the article failed to mention a single African country. After watching Sean Brock travel to Senegal in search of the real roots of American Southern cooking, I think it might be interesting to check out and if I’m far more likely to be surprised by good food there. Or perhaps I’m way more likely to be impressed if I found great food in a place no one really goes to or a place where it is really poor.

I remember a trip to Abashiri in Hokkaido, Japan. It’s a little town that mainly has 2 attractions. One is taking a boat out to sea to look at drift ice and the other is a prison. I had some insane fried chicken, arguably the best in my life there. That was surprising in how good it was but I still expected to find good food there. The obvious choice, the beer hall, has great yakiniku but it was the little takeaway fried chicken store that was surprising.

After my recent travels, I’ve found that no matter where I was, I was always able to find a good meal or at least a decent one, if I put in the effort to do so. Of course, if you drop yourself in a theme park or some other tourist trap, then good luck but you could also cook yourself. Life survives because it tries to and in part, I reckon the lure of great flavour had a part to play in keeping people alive but also keeping people interested to be alive and you’ll find people everywhere nowadays.

I saw a youtube clip of John Oliver on his show where he comes up with a new church called “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” after his experience with American televangelists who just straight up ask people for money so they can buy private jets and be baller. It’s the age old satire on religion as farce and tax evasion scheme. It’s also sadly, completely true.

Meanwhile, in Singapore, a pastor and his accomplices of the largest church in the country have just been found guilty of all charges in regards to misappropriating church funds and falsifying accounts. Whilst this religious leader fleecing ignorant believers bullshit has been going on since whenever, this is the first time in recorded history that the funds have been used to derail humanity.

A man fools 33000 idiots into giving his church money so that he can spend money to enable his wife’s career in LA. This went as far as paying Wyclef Jean to give a Chinese woman credibility that she somehow developed a Patois overnight and as the dutiful wife of a pastor, is now known as a Geisha.

Let’s not talk about the audacity of a so called man of god to rip good people off. Let’s talk about the real issue, which is the fact that the money ended up destroying many many people’s hearts, minds, souls and ears most of all, in producing some of the worst “music” in existence ever. Sun Ho’s “music” is fucking bad. It’s not on the level of The Shaggs or Kevin Federline shittiness. It’s just straight shit. It’s the very definition of evil.

From the racial stereotyping and inaccuracies to the ridiculous conflation of Jamaican steez with a yellow woman as being “of the moment”, it’s a fucking farce and a bunch of morons paid for this abomination to happen. In the ode to alcohol, “China Wine”, Sun Ho talks about dancing her problems away whilst repeatedly saying china wine whilst Wyclef Jean and some other dudes do their best to give a shit and literally drop a turd of a track. I suppose it must have inspired “Mr. Bill”, where Sun Ho plays a woman clearly dissatisfied with her partner and considers the option of murder. The lines, “Every morning, he wakes up for breakfast. I’m still yawning, he don’t care if I’m restless.” or “You want me to wash and clean, you want me to scrub and mop. I’m sitting on the side of the bed contemplating should I send him to the cemetery rock.” suggest her desire for emancipation but also hint at a much darker and sinister personality.

But that’s not all. Despite the fact that the guilty verdict has been declared, there are plenty while still cling onto some vestige of faith in the same people. Or perhaps they’ve discarded these black sheep, never mind that they were leaders. Anything to hold on to their own illusion of faith and belief. It’s crumbling all around and still, people are fucking stupid enough to persist. Wake the fuck up yo. You got fucking played. Quit whining like a bitch and give up the (holy) ghost. Or do you mean to tell me that “China Wine” was worth it?

This is pure evil.

Singapore’s General Elections just happened. I didn’t vote cos I’m in Sydney and I can’t be arsed to drive 3 hrs to tick a box and then another 1.5 hrs to the Clonakilla winery to drop bills on Shiraz Viognier before getting caught for drank driving on the way back. Point is, my vote (which I will not disclose) wouldn’t change anything anyway. But mostly, yea, petrol costs money bro.

In Singapore, we have the same party that’s been in power since… ever. Which has run the country pretty well I’d say. Third world to first despite the teething troubles. The ruling PAP even managed to increase the win percentage despite the oodles of tripe I see on facebook from people with as much clue as Alicia Silverstone 2 decades back. Look, I’m not saying that the opposition party(ies) are useless but the opposition party(ies)… Maybe someone should legally change their name to Deeez Nutz and campaign.

I digress. So in my home country, there is this continued steady consistent leadership that by and large, manages the country reasonably well, at the expense of some small concessions like absolute freedom of speech and the ability to sell chewing gum if you’re not a qualified pharmacist. Let’s ignore the bigots like the hella geek youtube boy or the hide behind the internet people or random facebook groups with dumbass names. Singapore is movin’ on because it’s really not that bad. At all. Like seriously, the shit you complain about is so first world problems.

Contrast with say, the U.S where a guy with a combover is trying to run for president. A combover! What next? A guy named after a Dr. Dre track? “Daddy, if I’ve got nuts on my chin, are they chin nuts?”.

Or maybe Australia? Which just had yet another leadership spill. See in Australia, you don’t vote the PM, you vote the party, usually one of two unless you’re super xenophobic and dumb or you think you’re an environmentalist. So the ruling party just decided to re-vote who gets to lead the party and hence become prime minister. The public doesn’t get to vote on this. The public though voted that party into power at the last elections. Over 50% of people must have felt that choosing the lesser of two evils involved accepting the fate that Tony Abbott would be PM. This is a damning indictment on Labor. Damning. The Libs put a clown as it’s poster boy and won. Almost like they knew they would, so they’re sending this idiot in to rub it all over your pleb faces whilst they smoke their fucking cigars and get their daughters university scholarships whilst also trying to restructure the university system into a public free for all pricing fuckfest. Like fuck you. You voted me into power. Watch me rape this country for all it’s worth and you can watch!

The silver lining is that the baboon is no longer in charge of Australia. The downside is that the NBN (Nonexistent Broadband Network) exists and the new PM came up with that idea, which blew out in costs and time etc. At least he seems like he has a brain attached. Minus the NBN plan where he decided that FTTN is better than FTTH because cheaper. Except more expensive. But it’s better! Just slower and kinda 3rd world. I have comparatively quick internet connection speed (Oz wise anyway) because I live in a new apartment block. This is crucial for Game of Thronage but It’s like 25ish Mbps down. I think most first world countries have 100+Mbps or some approach 1Gbps or whatever. In real terms, you can’t do liverstream, super high rez tentacle porn in Australia. Also, the Australian dollar is worthless! Oh and um, economic downturn.

What I’m saying is that in Singapore, the choice is nearly obvious. You can spend time listening to the Worker’s Party and you could move/live to/in Potong Pasir, which is kinda like Malaysia, or you could pay for overpriced subsidised modern public housing and moan about it all your life but grudgingly do it anyway like the peon that you are. You could also, flee the despotic regime and move to a country where real freedom and democracy exists and the television will broadcast scenes of children bickering over who called someone or other a nasty name in parliament and your tax dollars go into the drain to pay for helicopters and cab rides to and from one football match to another charity fundraiser. All this whilst nothing gets fucking done. Except empty slogans and bullshit and a one track economy which just got mad exposed.

I’m living the dream down under. Where people are so poor, they eat yeast extract on sour bread and it took over 2 years to rid the nation of an embarrassment that like wearing “budgie smugglers” whilst winking over a radio call in at a pensioner who works a phone sex line. At least the Lees of this world just get on with shit. If you listened to virtually all Australian politicians talk, you’d think you were in a mental institution. The only human ones will never win majority popular vote because they’re either LGBT or ethnic minority or not part of the establishment boy klub or some combination of the three.

Let’s not even get into who votes for the idiots and how the hell people can stand the childish behaviour of it’s national representatives or the fact that entire media businesses run on satirising the politics to a point where the harsh painful reality is so true and you laugh but it also hurts, deep in the psyche but you also have the nagging realisation that this purgatory will likely never pass and the torch just goes from one brainless silver spooned sack to another.

So the other day, I had this revelation. The answer to world hunger. Y’know, world hunger, which is a serious issue cos like beauty pageants and shit. Anyway, world hunger, the solution to. Was staring me in the face. Literally. Well, I mean, I was satisfying my own personal hunger with a Quarterpounder™ when it hit me and my stomach too but nevermind that. I forgot about my hunger. I was filled with a vision, of a world where there’s no more hungry people, only an ever escalating population of human beings that haven’t countenanced the idea of contraception and casual sex going together. A world where you’d be fed by a centralised agency that would provide the right nutrition at low/no cost globally and efficiently. Now, at this point, I just want to address the white elephant in the room which is limited space on planet earth and not enough room to grow food for a race that keeps making babies by accident because sexual impulse. Let’s just forget that little detail and dream.

Mickey D’s is the fucking answer and it has already assumed the mantle without activists and Jamie Oliver and Dan Barber talking shit bout shit in a feelgood TEDX. McNuggets yo. Filet’O’Fish. Big Mac. Soft Serve. Apple Pie. Yadda yadda. Of course, the system isn’t perfect and there’s that obesity side effect and stuff but it runs parallel with capitalism and democracy, imperfect and flawed but it’s a best of worst sitch. It has worked itself out from a singular, tiny little business to a monster that makes kids addicted to toys, reprocessed chicken offcuts into tastiness but then had to revert on that because health scare and not to mention “Create Your Taste”. A behemoth surely.

But imagine if you will, a consortium of chefs, moneymen, nutritionists, agriculturalists etc etc that came together to run macca’s. Would it be better than what it is today? Would it be more evil? Would they sell out even more and sell flavoured lab beef and all GMO everything? (Not that that’s necessarily bad… so long as you’re not dealing with first world problems like taste and good nutrition, moreso just… survival…) Let’s just assume this allstar selection were all able to devote time effort and money and agree on shit and have “morality” and conscience”. Could they make us all mostly, reasonably satisfied? What would meals be like in 2115? What would be the experience of consuming said meal? Is it a pill out of a dispenser? Is it a hearty lab grown nutrition stack with your extended family around the table? Is it 500 bites served on balloons and stardust with matching wines made of reconstituted Romanee-Conti? Is it simply fed intravenously ala The Matrix? Or will we transcend the need to “eat” and simply photosynthesise after DNA splicing a plant into our bodies? No I propose that it will be like eating a burger.

I’m clearly biased. This shit is since 1980 when moms shut me up with 2 McChickens. The other day, I mentioned my admiration for big M to a co-worker who then mentioned that I was the first chef he knew who liked McD’s. My head chef answered for me thusly, “What the fuck? Either you don’t know many chefs or the ones you know are all lying/pretentious fucks.”. Look, if you have a global company running franchises that have to source the ingredients by region but try as much as possible to adhere to a singular standard and maintain food costs, labour (hire kids and old people!) and also try to adjust for local tastes etc is hard enough. And yet, McDonald’s only serves just 1% of the earth’s population. Still, it is a gargantuan task and somehow, it runs.

For all your Redzepi / Wholefoods shit, you aren’t even close to touching that number. 1% is like 60 or 70 million people.  On a daily basis. Nobody son. Not even close. That docket rail full of shit? Not even close. The “empire” Nobu has? Not even close. Subway do a third of McD’s sales in the US. Burger King, Wendy’s, Starbucks and Taco Bell aren’t too far behind. Add all of everything else, KFC, Pizza Hut, Domino’s etc and you see what I’m getting at?

Now consider if you were Ronald McDonald himself. What would Ronnie Mac do? WWRMD? Would you be able to keep shit afloat and open even more that the 30K+ restaurants globally? Would you make it 3 million and hire a significant number of the global population and consider making healthy, sustainable food? Would you aggressively grow the company to such a state whereby you have the power of Google and the people would depend on your intrinsic benevolence? Would you buyout KFC and BK and Starbucks and call it all MFC, MK, McBucks? Sell MaccaFrappachinos? Would you also solve the petty geosociopolitical crises that engulf humanity and thereby solve everything else in one fell swoop?

The system for solving world hunger is already sort of in place. There are many many of these “fast food” places which serve people on a daily basis, cheaply and efficiently. Fuck dat “slow food” elitist gourmet snobbery bullshit. If, as a beauty queen, your winning answer is “I would like to solve world hunger”, you need to swallow some concrete and harden the fuck up. This isn’t a job for pussying out with 56 hour lamb shanks in centrifuged whey. This is about making edible, cheap, nutrition that isn’t some bullshit Soylent shit. You can’t survive for long with that crap, your morale would be shot. You gotta at least have something to pull you, that looks edible, tastes almost acceptable but again, it’s gotta be cheap and sustainable. This is a big fucking ask and something we as a race will actually have to countenance when global warming eats up so much farm worthy land that we’ll already have cities of hydroponics towers. I’m saying that Interstellar the movie dystopia isn’t all that far fetched.

So then I watched Coming To America and forgot about the whimsical idea of trying to “save planet earth” and decided that I will open a conglomerate called Whackdonnell’s. We’ll have the golden bowls, a golden W logo made out like fucking rice bowls. We’ll also have the Big Whack, which is two all-“beef” (it’s actually rat) patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions, but instead of a sesame / non sesame bun, we’ll have a ricecake a la Mos Burger with a third ricecake in the middle. Plus a retro diner menu board, Thonet No. 18s and linoleum tables. Colour scheme is gonna be purple and orange and we’ll have purple/orange plaid vests and berets and purple harringtons and aprons with gold W’s on em. Whackdonnells. *off to register webdomain*

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Yes. I re-watched an 80s comedy and it changed my life forever.

Today, my boss mentioned watching Anthony Bourdain visiting Singapore in his Layover program and his fiancee going gaga at the sight of teh-tarik. Both announced they would love to visit my home country and smash their faces into pots full of fishhead curry and shit. On a less savoury note, my facebook feed threw up people criticising Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan for being out of touch when his Ministry for Environment and Water Resources was quoted in the Straits Times as: “surveys show that in general, ingredients form about 60 per cent of a hawker’s costs”. Notably, food critic KF Seetoh posted, “If your food cost is 60%, eh, you long long close shop liao la. If you cannot do below 30%, go be a highly paid civil servant better la”. I don’t think the dichotomy of desire and reality not meeting could be summed up so painfully by both parties.

On the one hand, I can be proud that Singapore is famous for it’s great food. Yet, on the other, I can only see the abyss that faces said cuisine. There are many reasons why I have not chosen to start a restaurant in Singapore, weather being one of them, but everything else explains the difficult situation my beloved nation’s food heritage and identity faces today.

First off, most food in Singapore is ridiculously cheap. Some asshat will say that food in Indonesia or Vietnam or Ethiopia or whatever is cheaper. We have long been considered a developing nation and if hotels that look like the ark landed on top or the number of Vuittons per capita (LVPC) are anything to go by, I’d say that the little red dot is very much first world. A first world country that adopted the approach of keeping food cheap through a conscious government effort since the heady days of independence. This policy had two major effects. The first is that it keeps people happy, satisfying a basic need easily and keeping the government in power. The second is that the people developed a complacency and absurdity of expectation. Not only should it remain cheap despite the fact that the country sees affluence aplenty, it should also remain at the status quo in terms of taste. This is world class fare that costs very very little. Fuck inflation, fuck immigration policy, fuck market capitalism, fuck profit margins. We want cheap, hygienic, locally made, authentic and tasty stuff that’s subsidised by a benevolent dictatorship that’s somehow expected to be about face socialists when it comes to thing we eat.

In 1965, my moms was still a child and her experience revolved around 20c plates of noodles and it’s ilk. When I was a similar age in 1990, I remember the same thing would cost $2. So we’re talking a 1000% increase over 25 years. It’s a rough estimate of course but let’s compare it with the next 25 years. When I last went home in April this year, 2015, a relatively extravagant plate of hokkien mee cost $5 and it’s probably meant to be shared. So over the last 25 years, inflation was 250%. In 2040, will I be surprised if my $5 plate became $10? Honestly, I’d rejoice because that same thing runs about $15 here in Sydney here today and it hasn’t been honed by 20+ years of dedication involving long hours in front of a wok burner. And still, the clouds of nostalgia would present the idea that the taste has been going downhill post Planck epoch.

Singaporeans moan way too much. They’ve had it too good for far too long and gone are the tenets that my parents and grandparents’ generations have held so true; hard work and determination. Today’s Singaporean is more attuned towards ranting on a WordPress blog (like myself for no one to read) or a couple of lines on a Facebook comment as if they somehow deserve the $3 plates of god level chicken rice. It’s the entitled attitude that reeks. A dish that today has a few distinct styles, each worthy of merit and each developed through years of tireless innovation and ideas. Roasting garlic and onions to deepen the flavour of a broth, which in turns flavours the pristine rice or refreshing slow poached low temperature chicken in ice water developing additional texture with gelatinisation… I would suggest comparisons with the ramen scene in Japan and yet, these under-appreciated achievements come at a fraction of the cost. You’ll see a blog come up with some stupid list of their own favourite chicken rice stalls and the list is long. This snobbery is made possible only by the quality and quantity on offer.

So what does this low cost mean for me, a chef who is perhaps considering if he should start a F&B business in Singapore? Well, it’s all about competition and the ubiquity of it. There’s too much good food at stupidly low prices in Singapore. I could make great food but I’m no Rene Redzepi, David Chang or the guy who runs Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice or whatever but does that mean that I should not have decent remuneration for my effort and skill? In Singapore, the answer would be no, because you would be happy to go to the next guy since there’s so many. No one can say with any degree of certainty who the best chicken rice in Singapore is. Not fucking hungrygowhere, ieatishootipost or your grandmother’s left toe. There’s just too many candidates and low cost of food combined with high levels of competition means stupid high barrier to entry with little plausible reward.

So don’t do chicken rice or hawker food then, why don’t you run an Italian joint? This brings me to the next point of contention with the food scene in Singapore. We seem to not mind dropping dollars on a aglio olio or “carbonara” with cream or maybe some sushi/ramen/burger etc. Basically, we don’t mind spending more if it’s foreign. Hell, if you slice some truffles or throw on some gold leaf or maybe make soy milk look like camembert (true story), you’d drop $30 or $300. I love fine dining but the best I’ve experienced from L’Astrance in Paris, Central in Lima to Mugaritz in Errenteria are all locally sourced and locally inspired. This is not the case in Singapore, where Restaurant Andre is run by a Taiwanese person, Waku Ghin by Aussiefied Japanese and everything else French, Italian… you name it, anything but Singaporean. Where the real gods of cooking charge you maybe $8 for a sickass bowl of bisquey prawn noodles with massive superfresh premium shellfish. Versus a “seafood aglio olio” for $13.80 involving the privilege of air conditioning and table service.

Foreign food interests me and inspires me as a chef and I love cooking/eating it but I have scant interest in fleecing people with wagyu from Ohmi prefecture followed intensely by otoro from the Southern Antarctic. The ingredients are delicious, there is no doubting that, but the cost is prohibitive and/or otherwise unsustainable. We owe it to our future generations that we don’t live our lives in such excess that there is nothing left. Whilst some dismiss locavorism as just a trend that will surely fade, it is really all about great flavour and in truth, a return to how we ate prior to market capitalism and human greed detaching humanity from it’s food sources. Singapore is epitomy of that, with it’s need to import most of it’s food. I don’t however suggest that local for Singapore, should not include it’s neighbours in South East Asia or even indeed, China or Australia. After all, we did use to be a sleepy fishing village that transformed into one of the major shipping hubs around the globe because of our unique geography. Our importation of food is but another facet of our existence and we ought to celebrate it within reason. Still, the thought to cook expensive food in a foreign style using foreign ingredients or using cheap ingredients to cook in a foreign style at mid-range prices does not intrigue me. Our obsession with kurobuta this or uni that is a noose on our local cuisine. Because of our well travelled, foodie by birth nature, Singaporeans place too much exoticism on shit they can’t pronounce well. This is not cool.

But perhaps I ought to overlook the insane levels of competition and ridiculously small margins that could tempt me. Let me instead consider the “successes” in Singapore. One of the many changing fads perhaps? From franchises shilling the next big trendy little snack to the various hipster cafes pouring shots at $5 a cup to go with $7 rainbow sponge/red velvet cakes topped with shit buttercream. Sure, I oughta jump on that bandwagon. Sure.

I’m not saying that croissant taiyaki or macarons or boba tea isn’t good or there aren’t any good hipster cafes with amazing red velvet cakes made with ultralight microwaved sponge and perhaps flavoured with haw flakes and a custard apple icing. I’m sure there are and their latte art is awesome. I’m not saying that we should only eat local and not consider eating Japanese or Thai or Russian. I’m saying that our perspective is fucked and we ought to look again at poor old Singaporean food and give it the money it deserves.

This leads onto what would possibly change my mind. If people were willing to spend money on great food and appreciate the locality, seasonality and provenance of it, they ought to tip their favourite hawkers beyond the paltry figures imposed by government. If I had the opportunity to do so, I would, although I suspect they might not even allow me to have the privilege. What this dog eat dog world of competitive cooking needs is a conscience and respect from everyone. The government should drop any mandate to try to keep prices at stupid levels. 60% food cost is very high but many high volume/turnover, low price/service outfits rely on that to turn a profit. Hawker stalls have typically been like this and if food cost is really 60%, the problem isn’t your rent or wages or utilities or whatever. It’s the pricing. If food prices were higher in Singapore, there’s way more leeway, more room for creativity and more room for talent to produce what Singaporeans crave. I’ve read about various young people starting great initiatives cooking a variety of cuisines in hawker stalls and cafes and restaurants but how many of these will enjoy success with our expectation that they should not make any money?

But would Singaporeans be willing to pay more to get table service? Or would they rather moan that the hawker is rude? If I put one of the many deific personalities who run hawker stalls in Singapore into a white tablecloth restaurant with waiters and a sommelier, would you be willing to part with your hard earned at a level equivalent to what you would if Joel Robuchon’s name was plastered across the front of the entrance? Maybe we should take a step back a bit. What if I ran a contemporary restaurant in Singapore using locally sourced ingredients from the Asia Pacific region and focused on trying to create a cuisine which fuses the best old and new international cooking methods and ideas with that local identity? Say throwing up an egg yolk cured in gula melaka sitting on a muahchee esque blob of peanut and glutinous rice covered with crispy meringue and it came in a kopitiam saucer? That uniquely Singaporean palette that is willing to balance sweet soy and egg with cockles and Chinese sausage or a curmudgeon of spices blended so expertly you only notice the whole not the sum, would it be willing to countenance such a thing? Or perhaps it is easier to lull it into a dream with whisper of marbled beef and myths of beer addled massages.

Why the hell would you? The risk reward ratio is just weighted against the latter to the point of absurdity. Far easier to just troll people with stuff they’re less inclined to have too much affinity and understanding for. I could throwdown the best Peruvian style cevicheria or Basque tapas bar and you wouldn’t fucking know if it was close to the real deal even if you visited before because you didn’t grow up with that shit. Nah, you just have your fucking snobbish grandstanding pseudo gastronomic tendency to proffer your reviews on shit you have no clue about.

Yes, sign me up for this impossible quest. For what am I but yet another stupid chef who only lives in earnest desire to make tasty shit with some measure of a conscience?

For the record, fuck your fucking shitty rainbow sponge / red velvet / shit pseudo retro anglo slices of frivolousness. That shit needs to die.

I’ve just started a new job. Massive 16% pay cut, 50 hour work week in theory where I pretty much run the food side of a takeaway cafe with one other chef helping me and my head chef on occasion. Why? Well, I guess because I’ve always loved the cafe in question. They’ve always had amazing coffee, arguably one of the best in the world, certainly Sydney and probably Australia. The food was also typically pretty good at the same time and my gut said go for it. Turns out, I was fucking right.

The vibe is great. The team is small, just 5 people in the cafe at all times, 5 days a week from 6-4 and they’re all great people with energy, enthusiasm and a lot of nasty humour. I got along really well with my head chef, who used to work at all these places that I liked to eat at so we had a lot of stuff we liked in common. It seemed easy to get along with him and him with me. Likewise, with the front of house, with 2 dudes who are awesome pulling shots and getting crazy and a fine young lady with an exceptional posterior who’s also really into her job. It’s great when you work with people who seem to want to get stuff done and are serious but ridiculous at the same time. It’s only been a week but I feel like we’re best mates and all that already. My other chef is a bit of a downer but hey, everything can’t be perfect and I’m not the Marco type. We probably make the same money haha.

But more than just the central team, the company at large is also great, from the boss, who’s got a real matey attitude to the coffee buyer who managed to drop the terms “what do you think about rosewater” and “sabre a bottle of champagne” in 30 minutes.

Then there’s the positivity from outside as well. Not only are the customers really into the brand, so are the fucking competition and this is what gets me. We have got visited by two other excellent cafe places in Sydney that I rank world class and whilst some of it is sussing the competition, most of it is just good vibes. The reality is that the market for coffee and cafes in Sydney is insanely massive and there’s room for everyone. But basically, the CBD used to be a sort of twilight zone for crest of the third wave stuff in Sydney. Now, there’s at least 3 awesome places to get your caffeine on nevermind the countless other brilliant little places here and there that have popped up in the last 3 years.

I haven’t felt more alive? More into living and doing shit than I’ve ever been my entire life. Blink and I might just be able to do it, chase my dreams and maybe make something happen, change the world in my tiny little way regardless of the insignificance in the grand scheme of existence. I suppose this affirmation of “purpose” was something I’d wanted for the last 20+ years when, as a ten year old, I posed myself the question, “Why?”. Back then, I’d already intimated at the idea that the answer would be, “Because.” but I dreaded the thought that it would be something so simple, futile and stupid. I imagined some grander reason, some dude in the sky concept. Today, I finally and readily admit that “Because.” was the right answer all along.


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