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Toque Talk: Irish Chef Mark Moriarty

Mark Moriarty Celeriac

Moriarty’s award-winning celeriac baked in barley and fermented hay.

A wunderkind from Dublin was among the guest chefs at Singapore’s recent World Gourmet Summit. Here, he talks about modern Irish food and the joys of cooking.

By Sanjay Surana

“Always keep tasting. Any chef that doesn’t taste his food is crap.” Twenty minutes into a cooking workshop led by Mark Moriarty, and the small group of paying guests was warming to the irreverence of this tall, red-headed, ruddy-faced young Irishman (he’s only 24). Moriarty was showing us how to prepare the menu—mussels with potatoes cooked in seaweed, barbecued lamb rump—while deploying pithy gems like “I don’t want to hear about heart or health, you need loads of butter in everything,” and “when you make the food, if it’s not tasty, it’s not my problem.”

The Dublin-based chef was in Singapore in April for the annual World Gourmet Summit, part of a whirlwind tour that’s been going nonstop since he won the S. Pellegrino Best Young Chef award in Milan last year. During the four-hour class at the At-Sunrice cooking academy, Moriarty’s humor, humility, coolness, ease of cooking style, and laddish charm shone through as he crafted dishes inspired by his family roots in County Kerry on Ireland’s rugged southwest coast. “It’s hammered by winds and storms. The weather and soil are crap. The farmers gather seaweed that washes ashore and mix it with the soil to grow potatoes in it.” As he talked, his rangy body and limbs moved efficiently around the test kitchen. But what was most striking was the way he handled the food: workman-like, as though it were hard labor not haute cuisine.

He sliced and seasoned, boiled and baked, constantly wiping down the countertops, requesting utensils, spices, pots to be brought or removed, his form controlled and confident, his workspace spotless. “I’ll coat the potatoes in wakame seaweed, and then fry them with polenta,” Moriarty said. “That makes them really good. You can throw them at the wall and they’ll smash, they’re that crispy.” He flipped slabs of lamb on a grill and kneaded dough with chunks of rock salt and strands of seaweed, rolling it out before placing the potatoes in it. “After it comes out of the oven, it will look like something you find on the beach. Or a dinosaur egg.” When he plated the dishes, his touch was delicate, the raw builder transformed into meticulous artisan. “Everything has to be there for a reason, the flavors must go together.” That day he melded salty and sweet, citrus and yeast—simple yet scintillating.

Mark Moriarty in action

Mark Moriarty in action

In Milan, Moriarty beat 2,999 other competitors with a dish of pure Irish ingredients—celeriac baked in barley and fermented hay. “Ask most people what Irish food is and they’ll say potatoes, stew, alcohol,” he told me. “But Ireland has the best lamb, beef, and dairy in the world. What I’m doing is modern Irish cuisine. I take a classic dish, pull it apart, and put it back in a different way. I don’t do magic tricks, just good, solid cooking.” It’s food like this that he’s been serving in pop-up restaurants around Dublin for the past year.

Moriarty’s background has been widely published, but it’s worth recounting. His food interest started at age five, during summer fishing trips with his father in County Kerry. Learning to cook the catch was a natural progression, and before he hit his teens he’d been weaned on a steady diet of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s weekly River Cottage cooking shows. At age 15, he landed his first kitchen job at the Chart House in the Kerry town of Dingle, and he continued to moonlight at restaurants during his culinary arts program in Dublin.

Fast-forward to today, and those hours of toil have paid off. Winning the S. Pellegrino title “is an unbelievable opportunity. I was the youngest chef in the competition; some of the
others had six or seven years more experience
than me. I am using the award as a springboard to travel and to work with great chefs at places like Jaan [Singapore’s acclaimed modern-French restaurant where Moriarty guest-cooked during the World Gourmet Summit]. But it also brings great pressure. Every time I go away,  I’m keenly aware that I’m representing Ireland.” He’s also aware of the ephemeral nature of fame and the pitfalls of the industry, which he says helps him remain grounded. “This chance will probably never happen again so I am trying to enjoy it. Winning an award gives you confidence in what you’re doing.” I asked him if he thinks Irish food will become a global phenomenon. “It’s gaining more of a worldwide profile, sure. But will it get the recognition of Spanish or Nordic food? I don’t know.”

Mark MoriartyMoriarty’s boundless enthusiasm, evidenced by his patter and energy in the kitchen, undoubtedly helped in the Young Chef competition and serves him well today in his role as an Irish food ambassador. “Cooking is endlessly creative and rewarding. Raw ingredients come in every day, and by lunch and dinner you’ve turned them into a dish. It’s not like an office where you might be working for something that’s five years away.”

In the At-Sunrice kitchen, Moriarty weaved among the participants as they labored on their facsimile of his dish. He’d fetch missing ingredients, taste a reduction, add a touch of salt or a dash of lemon, and throw in words of encouragement like “Great sauce, chef,” or “Good flavor, chef, mmm.” He also recounted a story from earlier in his career, when a tray of molten foie gras burned the arm of a fellow chef, who stayed on to do five hours of dinner service before going to the hospital for six hours of treatment. The class waited for insightful remarks about dedication and courage, but Moriarty surprised with the kicker, “Stupid of him to stay, really.” Equally unexpected was the reply when I asked him about his favorite food. “Thai. When I have friends over and make comfort food, I make a big green curry.”

With any luck, that means he’ll be back on this side of the world more often.

This article originally appeared in the June/July print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Making His Mark”).

Travel Journal: Laurent Baheux

Name: Laurent Baheux
Occupation: Wildlife photographer, author of nine books and portfolios
Home Base: Poitiers, France

What’s the first trip you remember taking?
I followed international sports events when I was a photo-reporter for press agencies. But my first real trip was in 2002 when I decided to go to Tanzania and discover African wildlife. That changed my life, both personally and professionally.

How many countries have you traveled to?
About 40.

Where do you consider as home?
Everywhere in the world with my wife and children.

What’s your idea of a perfect trip?
A perfect trip is never prepared. I don’t like to organize and prefer to let life surprise me. I just book my flight and sometimes a car, if need be.

How would you describe your packing style?
Light and useful. I often use my camera bag like a travel bag. It fits perfectly in plane cabins.

What do you never travel without?
My cameras.

What’s your preferred mode of transportation?
Planes are fast but polluting, trains are geographically limited, cars are too slow to leave Europe … My dream is to move with no impact on the earth.

What’s been your biggest travel mishap?
Forgetting my passport.

What qualities do you appreciate most in a hotel?
Simplicity, respect for the environment, and ability to blend into the landscape. Though usually, I’m sleeping in a mobile camp in the bush.

Who are your ideal travel companions?
My family.

What’s your biggest travel pet peeve?
The security services that completely empty my camera bag to verify the equipment.

What’s the best thing you’ve purchased abroad?
Entry fees to wild areas.

Where do you still wish to go?
All the territories where wildlife can express itself freely.

What’s the biggest thing traveling has taught you?
My perception of humans’ place on Earth. We are part of the wider family of all living beings, which is why I’ve named my latest book The Family Album of Wild Africa [teNeues; US$125]. We must leave more space, more life for other species because we will not survive without them. It’s humanity’s absolute challenge.

No matter where you are, what makes you feel at home?
When I feel free and connected to the environment.

For more information, visit Laurent Baheux’s website.

This article originally appeared in the February/March print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Journal: Laurent Baheux”).

6 Questions with Hidetoshi Nakata

A decade after retiring from the field, Japanese football hero Hidetoshi Nakata tells us about his new set of goals making his US$1,000-a-bottle sake, N.

By Gabrielle Lipton

Why did you decide to create N?
The Japanese have such great traditional products, but they don’t promote or brand them well. Sake is a case in point—it’s drunk in Japanese restaurants the world over, but can anyone name a single brand? I thought I could raise awareness by making my own premium sake and also an app, Sakenomy.

What’s so special about your sake?
It’s made by a 15th-generation toji, or master brewer, at Takagi Shuzo brewery in Yamagata prefecture. We use the best types of rice, Yamadanishiki and Aiyama, which are hand-pressed in cloth bags. It’s time-consuming, but it gives the smoothest flavor.

What does Sakenomy do?
Sake labels are usually in Japanese. With my app, you can photograph a label, and it gives you info about the bottle in English, Italian, and soon more languages. You can also see ratings from users, search for specific sakes, and get recommendations based on what you’ve drunk before.

What’s a misconception about sake you wish to change?
People think that sake only goes with Japanese food, but that’s not true. We drink wine with any kind of food, so why not sake? Whenever I host a tasting dinner, I always include champagne and wine alongside my sake. Then people understand the similarities.

How did you choose your brewery?
After retiring from football, I went back to Japan to learn more about my culture, which included touring all 47 prefectures. Along the way I visited more than 250 of Japan’s some 1,300 sake breweries, and eventually chose Takagi Shuzo as a partner.

What have you learned from your travels?
The best travel experiences involve the help of people, not the Internet.

For more information, visit N Sake.

This article originally appeared in the February/March print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Sake Star”).

Interview with Shane Osborn of Arcane

The first Australian to earn a Michelin Star, Chef Shane Osborn has opened his first solo venture in Hong Kong. 

It’s unlikely that you’ll see chef Shane Osborn’s name making major headlines—and that’s how he prefers it. The Perth-born chef isn’t interested in gaining the stature of a celebrity chef, instead preferring that his dishes claim the fame. That’s not to say that he isn’t worthy of being in the limelight, though. After all, he’s earned the culinary world’s coveted Michelin Star (two of them, no less) during his stint as head chef at London’s Pied à Terre; he’s credited with the successful turnaround of Hong Kong’s once struggling St. Betty’s; and now, he has opened his first solo venture, Arcane—with much success—in the bustling Central District of Hong Kong.

Literally meaning “understood by few; mysterious or secret”, Arcane, which opened in November 2014, is the embodiment of Osborn’s philosophy behind his culinary success. Osborn envisioned a no-frills, no-gimmicks restaurant lauded purely for its culinary merit. True to its name, the restaurant is discreetly tucked away at the end of a quite street in Central, occupying the third floor of 18 On Lan Street. The restaurant lacks any sort of showy signage, which makes it a bit hard to find unless you know what you’re looking for.


The clean, simple interior of Arcane.

The restaurant’s interior is equally minimal. Designed by Darryl Goveas from Pure Creative, the look is clean and simple, yielding a sophisticated space that is the very epitome of the old adage “less is more.” White linens match the white walls, which are adorned with artworks from Flowers Gallery, a London and New York based contemporary art gallery. The intimate space seats 40 diners in total, and an outside terrace—where herbs, fruits, and vegetables are grown—seats an additional 20.


One of the season’s dishes, garnished with hand-crystallized salt imported from Japan.

The décor is purposefully scaled back to let the main subject come into focus: the cuisine. Out of the restaurant’s open kitchen, Osborn serves up a seasonal menu of European cuisine presented in six starters, six mains, and five desserts, alongside specials and set business lunches. Osborn’s passion and attention to detail (he imports hand-crystallized salt from Japan) is evident in every dish—and keeps the restaurant regularly packed to capacity. To ensure that each dish is of the utmost quality, Osborn sources ingredients from Japan, France, Australia, and the U.K.


Only the freshest produce are used to create all the dishes.

Given that Arcane has no trouble attracting guests, it’s wise to make reservations before dining there. Three-course set lunches and a la carte dishes are served daily from 12:00p.m.­–3:00p.m, while dinner, presented on an a la carte menu, is served daily from 6:30p.m. onwards.

3/F, 18 On Lan Street; 852/2728-0178; Arcane; plates from US$26


Digital Detoxes, Iceland, and Other 2015 Trends

Few people know what’s hot in the world of travel better than Alison Gilmore, the London-based exhibition director of Asia’s most prestigious travel-industry event, the International Luxury Travel Market Asia. Here, she shares some of her insider insights.

By Gabrielle Lipton

In regards to travel, 2015 will be the year of what?
Health and wellbeing. “Digital detox” is the title being batted around at the moment, and quiet space and mindfully switching off are key this year. I’m as guilty as the next person for looking at my e-mails before getting out of bed in the morning, but we all need to disconnect, even if only for 24 hours. The spa industry has also gained a lot of market share in recent years, and it’s not a passing trend we’re seeing but sustainable, substantial growth. Spas are rooted in ancient philosophy, and they’re also sexy. They appeal to us on levels we understand, be it relaxation, instant gratification, or a lifestyle change that we want.

ILTM Asia is focusing on China this year. Why?
More international travelers come from China than any other country in the world. According to The Economist, the Chinese are expected to buy more luxury goods while abroad than tourists from all other countries combined this year, and within five years, it’s estimated that Chinese tourists abroad will exceed half a billion annually.

Within China, what are some regions on the rise?
I am particularly fascinated by the 900-year-old village of Hongcun in the eastern province of Anhui. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s backed by the peaks of Huangshan, or the Yellow Mountain, which is spectacular too, with a once-in-a-lifetime trek through ancient pine trees, amazing rock formations, hot springs, and seas of misty clouds. And in southern China, there are more and more luxury lodges, eco-camps, and small guesthouses opening up along the Ancient Tea Horse Road to Tibet, particularly in Yunnan. Brands that are typically resort- and beach-focused—Six Senses, Lux Resorts, Hyatt Regency—are all opening up in the hills there, as more and more travelers are thirsting for nature.

Outside of Asia, what are some of this year’s most desirable destinations?
We’ve designed ILTM Asia 2015 to highlight certain countries and regions, and two that are especially trending at the moment are Iceland and Latin America. Nine Worlds and Nordic Luxury are just two of Iceland’s specialist groups for tailor-made experiential trips, and lately they’ve been the talk of the town. In the wellness department, the medical spa at Iceland’s geothermal Blue Lagoon is incredible. And in Latin America, Argentina is particularly hot, with gastronomic cruises down the Amazon River, in-depth tours focused on South American arts, and adventure expeditions through the Andes.

What are some favorite travels of your own?
Two places that stand out for me are Laos, which is such a magical and spiritual place, and Antarctica, which is absolutely a world of its own. But it’s also the little things about travel that I love; even after 20 years working in travel and flying the distance to the moon and back twice, I still get excited to check in to a hotel and enjoy something as simple as a sumptuous bath. Perhaps this is on my mind because of my recent stay at the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong—their enormous soaking tubs are amazing!

ILTM Asia 2015 will be held June 1–4 at the Shanghai Exhibition Centre in Shanghai.

This article originally appeared in the April/May print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Director’s Notes”)

Interview with Chris Salans

For 14 years, Mozaic has been renowned as one of Bali’s finest restaurants. Established in 2001 in Ubud, the island’s central cultural hub, Mozaic was one of the original establishments to help start the wave of transformation of Bali’s culinary scene into the diverse, global one that it is today.

Walk through the restaurant’s traditional Balinese doors, and you’ll find yourself in an open-air dining area set in the middle of lush garden that exudes tranquility. Farther in, there’s a private dining area with views of emerald tropical greenery outside and the open kitchen inside, allowing diners to watch on as their dishes are prepared. It’s here where we met Chris Salans, the man and head chef behind the restaurant, to talk about his concept, recipes, and cooking techniques. Salans also shares how he continues to make his work stay relevant after so many years and what he believes is in store for Indonesia’s culinary future.

Jl. Raya Sanggingan, Ubud, Gianyar; 62-361/975768; Mozaic Restaurant

Molecular Gastronomy In Jakarta

Since opening Indonesia’s first molecular gastronomy restaurant in 2012, self-taught chef Andrian Ishak has continued to prove that he has surprises to spare

By Gabrielle Lipton
Video by Dimas Anggakara

Things are crackling and exploding and chocolate shards are raining like confetti down on tables where diners are guarding themselves with red napkins like bullfighters, peeking over the top to see what’s happening on their plates. “Happy new year!” someone shouts. It’s mid-September, the opening night of chef Andrian Ishak’s latest 17-course menu at his Jakarta restaurant Namaaz Dining, and this is the finale. Compressing nitrogen inside chocolate eggs until fork tines tap them into eruption is certainly one way to go out with a bang.

Demur and genteel, 37-year-old Ishak has let his food do the talking since he opened Namaaz just two years ago as Indonesia’s first molecular gastronomy restaurant. The first course of his debut menu was the menu itself—or so it seemed, until Ishak told diners to take a bite, revealing it as a trompe-l’oeil of pineapple flour. And that was the last time he presented guests with a course list. He’s now on his fourth “season,” as he calls his themed degustations, and patrons only find out what they’re eating as each course arrives. Ishak’s agenda of surprises has made him a master of the soft sell, with Namaaz’s reputation as one of the city’s—and country’s—top restaurants spreading like wildfire.

Namaaz’s first incarnation was located farther south on the second floor of a shophouse with just eight seats and one employee. Ishak’s cooking caused such a sensation that after just one year he had to look for larger premises, moving Namaaz into a beautiful house in the upscale Senopati neighborhood nearer the center of town. Now, five nights weekly, the elegant black-tableclothed dining room fills nearly all of its 28 seats for a single three-hour dinner. Tempo magazine named Ishak 2013’s chef of the year. He’ll accept congratulations humbly, then half-smile and add, “But, well, I am not a chef.”

At the age when budding chefs are usually enrolling themselves in culinary school or apprenticing in a kitchen, Ishak was playing in a band, set on a future in music and painting on the side. It was his father who first foresaw his transition to gastronomy, perhaps from having watched Ishak dabble in the kitchen since the age of five, helping with his family’s catering business, or maybe when he made a perfect dish of martabak without ever having been taught how. But Ishak, who considers himself an artist first and foremost, doesn’t regard his career change as being much of one anyway. “It’s all about harmony. The music I made was really weird, really ideological. Food is the same.”

He continued to teach himself, ordering equipment like evaporators, centrifuges, and dehydrators and ingredients like coating gel from overseas suppliers and consulting books and YouTube to figure out how to use them. Liquid nitrogen has been his preferred toy of late, using it in an “anti-griddle” to freeze the bottom of custard, or blasting it into a coconut as he stirs and scrapes its insides, then scoops out ice cream with sugar crystals that explode in the mouth like Pop Rocks. “Of course, some experiments  are going fail, but that’s the fun part, right?” He recalls an early attempt at soda, putting halved grapes with crushed dry ice into a Coca-Cola bottle and watching it swell and burst, rocketing out frozen fruit bits and cracking his mirror. “Maybe that’s why I don’t have an educational background. I just like to try things for myself.”

Yet for all his weird science and cutting-edge cuisine, Ishak keeps his artistry distinctly Indonesian, and never more so than with this season, Street Food, inspired by the food carts of Jakarta’s streets. Like the plastic bags of goldfish vendors, water-filled camping lanterns with fish instead of bulbs hang above the black counter siding the open kitchen, where Converse-clad assistants fill vials with vinegar sauce to be sipped through a meringue-topped straw for Ishak’s deconstructed take on the sweet-and-sour fruit soup asinan bogor, or squirt barbecue smoke into glass domes covering a savory pat of chicken for ayam bakar. As the playlist transitions from Kesha to Lou Reed’s “Walk On the Wild Side,” a young staffer with thick-rimmed glasses arrives tableside to introduce course eight, beef satay reimagined as two curried crackers sandwiching pillowy-soft tongue cooked sous vide for 42 hours. He later returns to explain the proper exhalation process for course 12, Dragon’s Breath—a small Nitrogen-infused meringue that dissolves into a puff of smoke.

The thing about science is that answering one question only leads to many more, which is why, after-hours, Ishak turns down the lights, turns up the music, and continues to experiment late into the night. (He has already chosen themes for his next two seasons: Childhood and Supermarket.) Sometimes he develops new molecular methods and finds foods to encapsulate their madness; sometimes he works in the reverse, figuring out what his tools can do to reinvent a simple dish. And—not to spoil any surprises—Street Food’s first course is just that.

Jl. Gunawarman No. 42, Kebayoran Baru, South Jakarta; 62-21/3306-1000; Namaaz Dining; 17-course dinner for two about US$185

 This article originally appeared in the October/November print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“A New Season for Namaaz”)

Inside Will Goldfarb’s Room 4 Dessert

For those who believe you must suffer for your art, Will Goldfarb can tell you it’s true. After his cultish Manhattan restaurant Room 4 Dessert folded in 2007, Goldfarb discovered a malignant tumor in his leg. He later ruptured four discs in his back while opening restaurant-cum-laboratory Mejekawi at Ku De Ta in Bali in 2013. Now back in fighting shape, Goldfarb has re-launched Room 4 Dessert (Jl. Sanginggan Raya; 62-361/553-2598) in the heart of Ubud. The effect of six years in Bali is palpable in his food: local ingredients like rambutan, passion fruit, and chia seeds add delicate textures to his Passion You black-rice pudding, while the Sugar Refinery 2.0, pictured above, combines  palm sugar, mangosteen bitters, and Balinese meringue. Goldfarb also curates an ambitious wine list and cheeky cocktails like the Sere Lady, a foamy gin sidecar with muddled lemongrass. The exterior features a mad-scientist-esque scrap-steel awning and original commissions by painter Gusti Ngurah Wijana throughout. Gone, however, is his signature lab equipment in favor of more intimacy with the ingredients—the venue has the same appliances left from the last café. Expect frequent unsolicited (but welcome) visits from Goldfarb at your table. —Rachel Will

This article originally appeared in the August/September 2014 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Making Room”)

An Interview With Gede Mahendra Yasa

Indonesian artist Gede Mahendra Yasa, 47, captures the absurdities of modern Bali within his narrative canvases. From philandering tourists to non-indigenous wildlife to swashbuckling conquistadors, his detailed paintings demand exploration. His recent “Post Bali” exhibition explored three distinct realizations of the island through dissimilar painting styles. In the first room, his works from early 2010 feature photorealist painting in the context of Balinese life, followed by juxtapositions of absurd objects with traditional Balinese imagery, such as a massive Hindu god battling apes. In the second room, his most recent work melds teeming Balinese narrative styles of painting with miniature photorealist characters, alongside dual-pane Pollock-esque splatter paintings.

His thematic investigation of Bali immersed in various painting styles is as revealing as the chronological progression of his work. His large canvas paintings, such as the 75-by-300 cm “Contemporary Art in Paradise Lost,” took one year to paint. His productivity – averaging six to eight works per year – is not a result of indolence but rather the intensity of details he imbues spawned from intermittent periods of research. (Some surveys have motivated Yasa to explore traditional Chinese paints and Balinese paper-making techniques.) And, in person, Yasa is no different than his paintings would suggest, eager to bridge topics of existential passions with humble discussions of his creative motivations. Yasa’s work is rooted in modern Balinese painting styles yet touches on contemporary themes of the excesses of tourism, capitalism, and politics. Is he comfortable in this novel space between the two genres? Watch our interview with the artist for more. —Rachel Will

An Interview with mapKL

Kuala Lumpur’s Publika offers an artisan shopping experience with hand-picked retailers curating craft products, to dining outlets specializing in treats unique to the mall. From the conception of Publika in 2011 arts programming has also been paramount to the mission of the space, with the venue’s own mapKL arts and cultural platform spearheading some of the nation’s most innovative exhibitions. At a time in Malaysia when limited funding for the arts exists and access is often for the elite, mapKL melds commercial sponsorship with grassroots initiatives to bring arts to the capital city. DestinAsian sits down with some of the folks behind the art-infused walkways and foreign language films nights of Publika.

1 Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; 603/6207-9426; Publika