It's fair to say that Taiwanese chef André Chiang has helped to put Singapore on the map of the fine-dining world thanks to the eponymous dining establishment, Restaurant André.
Since its inception in 2010, the restaurant has earned a multitude of accolades, including the World's 50 Best Restaurants, and received two stars in the inaugural Singapore edition of the Michelin Guide in 2016.
Which is why many in the culinary industry were shocked when he announced the impending closure of Restaurant André on its eight-year anniversary (which also coincides with his wedding anniversary) on Oct. 10, 2017.
The restaurant with the iconic blue door and an olive tree had its last day of service on Feb. 14, 2018.
Almost three years later, I got to relive the moment through a movie screening of "André and His Olive Tree", a documentary directed by Singaporean director Josiah Ng.
Here's the synopsis:
"André and His Olive Tree follows Chef André as he prepares to close his beloved Restaurant André on Valentine’s Day of 2018, and return those coveted Michelin stars. This of course creates a shock to the industry, his staff, and his loved ones. This passionate perfectionist has sacrificed his childhood, battled critics and fought hard to stand out, but has decided to give it all up now. Chef André intimately reveals what’s on his plate next, and ponders what perfection truly means."
You can watch the trailer here:
Speaking to Mothership, Chiang shared that he decided to make the documentary as it was the "best way" to tell his story.
He said: "I believe it's one of the most important moments or decisions in my career and people have millions of questions on why and how I made this decision, and it's hard to give the answer to it.
There are many things and emotions involved so I thought this would be the best way to show people what was Andre's intention of closing Restaurant Andre."
The 104-minute long feature is split into eight parts, following Chiang's eight elements of gastronomy (also known as Octaphilosophy):
As someone who has no background in the F&B industry and has not dined in Restaurant André, the film still managed to keep me glued the entire time with Chiang's unpretentious and candid demeanour.
Don't expect to find loud and heated arguments like one would expect from Master Chef or Hell's Kitchen, though.
Instead, the documentary gave a refreshing perspective of what it takes to run an award-winning restaurant and the relationship that the chef has with his 25-strong staff in Singapore.
While chef Chiang was the main star of the show, one character that really stood out for me was Sudarampai "Pam" Chiang, Chiang's wife and the restaurant's general manager.
He told us that she is a "supportive force" behind every decision of his.
Together, the couple shared more about their relationship and delved into why they got married just three months after they met.
Pam also shows what it's like balancing two roles as the chef's wife and the tireless, straight-talking dictator of the restaurant.
But don't let her fierce front fool you.
You may tear a little, just like I did, when Pam shows her vulnerable side in several scenes of the film.
Overall, we'd say that this isn't a niche documentary just for the food snobs.
It's a rather light watch for fans of chef Chiang and those who are curious to know what it's like to be someone who helped to stamp our little red dot on the culinary map.
"I guess we should all feel very proud that we created something fantastic together.
I hope this will influence the young chefs and the young generation who are on the frontline right now in Singapore, and also inspire them to create something greater."
"André and His Olive Tree" is now showing at selected Golden Village cinemas.
Top image from Golden Village.