It’s not every day that a respected and discerning professional critic calls someone a genius, so it was incredibly thrilling to hear that this past Friday, a close friend was described as such by none other than the International Herald Tribune’s food writer Patricia Wells. The friend in question is Singaporean chef Jereme Leung, who helms the kitchens of the Whampoa Club, in the 3 on the Bund complex, in Shanghai.
In an article titled “Cutting-edge delights of the ‘new’ Shanghai”, that ran in the 13 May 2005 edition, Wells writes:
“It’s been a long time since I got up from the table after dining in a restaurant and whispered to myself, ‘genius.’ … If there are revolutions in contemporary Chinese cooking, then it is the gifted, ambitious chefs such as Leung who will serve as the leaders. His food is not fusion, it is not confusion, it is not all about avocados and papayas with raw tuna. It’s good, honest, Chinese fare that’s been given a face-lift, an update, a new look with no sacrifice in flavor. In fact, it’s more like an upgrade to first class.”
Getting this kind of accolade from a critic like Wells—friend, collaborator, and judge of some of the world’s greatest chefs—is no mean feat. (Unlike critics in a place like Singapore, her meals are neither free nor are they eaten in the company of a restaurant’s public relations staff.) She’s considered one of the world’s best herself. So when she names Jereme a genius, you can bet the culinary world is sitting up and taking note.
Hopefully, the Singapore government is also taking note. There have been several recent articles in the local press here (the most recent in this past Saturday’s Business Times) investigating the current culinary environment and advocating for more and better attention and resources for our chefs, whether they live here or overseas. I’ve also previously written, in this blog, of my own belief that we need to do much, much more to help our chefs and at the same time help our country develop its culinary scene and culture.
That said, in the interest of brevity, I’m going to end here (before I start rambling on and on with my ideas for a Singapore Culinary Arts Council) with a simple message to Jereme. “CONGRATULATIONS! You very much deserve every compliment you get.”
p.s. For readers who can’t get to Shanghai, Jereme will soon be launching his first cookbook, titled New Shanghai Cuisine. Published by Marshall Cavendish, it should be in stores by August this year. (I should probably come clean and admit that my lovely wife helped Jereme write the book, so I’m once again shamelessly promoting her and her work.)