Many experienced chefs have tried and failed to get a foot inside the door of award-winning and highly acclaimed Restaurant Andre in Singapore. But Enoch Teo did. The 25-year-old received the opportunity of a lifetime when he got to work under Chef Andre Chiang as part of his student apprenticeship when he was undergoing a Culinary Arts diploma programme with At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy in 2010. For any young and aspiring chef, it doesn’t get better than this.
The Academy had worked hard to secure a couple of precious apprentice slots for its most promising students. However, getting in was just the beginning. Enoch quickly brings us back down to earth by reminding us that there was plenty of hard work in store for him. “During my first month at Restaurant Andre, I was just a ball of confusion. All I could do well was wash dishes, peel vegetables and clean up. It was bloody hard work. But I knew that if I gave it my best, maybe, just maybe I would find favour with Chef Andre. And you know, after apprenticing for six months under him, I learnt so much.” Enoch then went on to apprentice for another six months at The Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, an equally prestigious but less stressful experience.
Enoch shares that his most memorable time during his diploma studies, was receiving an opportunity to represent the Academy in the Sopexa Concours Cuisine Competition in 2010, where he clinched the position of 2nd runner up. “I remember going to the wet market at 6.30am in the morning, buying three whole sea bass, then rushing back to school to practise my competition dish. I still had to head to my apprenticeship site three times a week whilst doing all that preparation. My schedule was insane, but it was an experience that really taught me discipline and determination.”
Enoch had an early culinary start, when he left school and started working as a cook at a ‘zi-char’ stall when he was just 15 years old. “I was young, but I loved the energy and spirit of brotherhood in the kitchen. It’s an environment that cannot be found anywhere else.” After enlisting in National Service, Enoch’s campmate, an At-Sunrice alumnus, spoke enthusiastically about his fulfilling experience as an At-Sunrice student. The glowing endorsement stuck in Enoch’s mind, and gave him the impetus to enroll in the Academy when he finished his NS to hone his culinary skills and knowledge.
The graduate has come a long way. He first made an impact in 2014 as the proud chef-entrepreneur of Enoch’s European, a contemporary restaurant smartly located in the foodie enclave of Katong. The affable young man shares that the vision behind his eponymous restaurant, is unpretentious minimalism. And why modern European cuisine? Enoch tells us: “I love that it’s always evolving. So my restaurant is classic European accented by little touches of modern culinary techniques that At-Sunrice taught me. In this way, I aim to tantalize the senses with thoughtful cuisine prepared with heart and soul.”
When the lease of the restaurant expired in Aug 2015, Enoch teamed up with fellow chef Immanuel Tee, a batchmate from At-Sunrice who also apprenticed with him under Chef Andre Chiang, to establish E&I Food Concepts which offers food consultancy services and operates food retail outlets. They opened Garcons, a modest casual dining eatery within the Essen at The Pinnacle@Duxton, where they have built a loyal following amongst lovers of good, casual European dining at prices that won’t break the bank. The two buddies kicked off 2016 by opening another edition of Garcons at the Alibabar Hawker Bar along East Coast Road, staking a credible claim on ‘high end in the heartlands’. Jointly, they also operate Immanuel French Kitchen at Bukit Merah Lane, and are excitedly looking forward to open their fourth outlet at the soon-to-be launched Timbre Plus at JTC Launchpad at Ayer Rajah.
Enoch doesn’t hide the fact that he was at one time a youth-at-risk, drawing instead on that life experience to help others make the most of opportunities that come their way. The hallmark of the company is that they take in at-risk youths with zero experience in cooking, and train them in a life skill they can use to carve a livelihood with dignity and sustainability.
“Their lives have been filled with negativity. I show them how to cook, and tell them: See, it's nice, right? It looks like what you see in the YouTube videos. Then they feel a sense of satisfaction that, finally, there is something in life that they can do well." In October 2015, his passion and generosity was recognised when E&I beat almost 300 applicants to become one of 11 groups to receive the DBS Foundation Social Enterprise Grant.
Enoch cites heavyweights such as Andre Chiang and Marco Pierre White as some of his culinary idols, but affectionately speaks of his mother, as someone he also looks up to. “She still keeps the first newspaper article that featured me when I was 19. She’s my biggest fan.” When asked for his secret to success, he tells us there’s no secret, only hard work. “Work hard, go places where you can learn the most, not earn the most. Keep your mind and heart open to learning, and never regard more work as a chore because it is an opportunity for you to learn more than others and excel faster. Obstacles will make you stronger as long as you persevere.”
Wise words from a young man well-positioned for more success.
Garcons at Essen at The Pinnacle@Duxton
1 Cantonment Road
Open daily from 11.30am - 2.30pm and 5.30pm- 10pm
Garcons @ Alibaba Hawker Bar
125 East Coast Road
Open Tuesday - Sunday from 12pm - 2.30pm and 5.30pm - 10pm
Immanuel French Kitchen @ Bukit Merah Lane 1
Blk 119, #01-40
Open Tuesday – Sunday from 11.30am – 2:30pm and 5.30pm – 10pm