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Chef Seow Tzi Qin from Brewerkz and Café Iguana reveals how local produce contributes to making food

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit” is the mantra that Chef TQ lives by. Spending hours upon hours perfecting his dishes, his unwavering determination and dedication is rewarded by all of the repeat customers who continue coming back to Brewerkz for its bold flavours that show up perfectly every single visit.

Today, we are celebrating the seventh edition of Taste and Dine event featuring Chef Seow Tzi Qin, the Group Executive Chef at Brewerkz and Café Iguana. Like every other series where we capture the essence of food through the eyes of our guest Chefs, today we will discover what makes a dish perfect from Chef Seow Tzi Qin.

With 15 years of diverse experience in top kitchens (such as Les Amis, Le Saint Julien, 1919 Waterboat House at Fullerton, La Taperia, Tung Lok Classics and SATS), Chef TQ brings incredible breadth and depth to the kitchen, with dishes that are both delectable and multi-dimensional. Chef TQ is regarded as a culinary expert with multi-cuisine trainings in French, Spanish and Chinese techniques that produces a perfect culinary juxtaposition of traditional and modern techniques showcasing Eastern and Western flavours.

Today, he is responsible for developing Brewerkz’s signatures that beautifully blends rich Asian flavours with the characteristic European palate. As well as, modern Mexican delicacies at Café Iguana. Instead of classic Mexican street food which was served previously, Chef Seow Tzi Qin has introduced a major menu revamp, which encompasses a modern take on traditional Mexican cuisine while providing each dish with its own unique identity.

Expect a new variety of Mexican street food and mains plus creative renditions of classic dishes with a twist! The menu also incorporates sustainable and locally sourced ingredients that bring across traditional flavours integral to authentic Mexican cuisine while promising a delightful balance of flavour perfection.

How did you first find out about local produce?

Being a chef for more than a decade, I am naturally no stranger to local produce. However, we have been fairly reliant on our supply of globally-sourced produce and ingredients for long, until COVID-19 pandemic struck, shutting down international borders. The instability of food sources caused major disruptions to our restaurant operations. This is the first time, I actively searched for local produce alternatives which eventually changed the ball game for me.

Why did you decide to choose local produce?

The choice of local produce was at first influenced by macro factors such as supply chain disruption, food shortage caused by global warming, natural disasters, or disease outbreak among livestock. However, as we started using more and more local produce, we realised that it is not just an alternative that temporarily protects us from instability and price volatility. Local produce renders the freshness and quality to our dishes that makes it even more luscious. And apart from the taste of food, local produce also lowers the environmental footprint which aligns with our sustainability value.

What local produce are you using?

Locally produced microgreens, vegetables, eggs, fish and seafood.

How are the local products used in your dishes? What are some of the dishes? What products did you use previously?

Today, the locally sourced ingredients are used throughout our menu – main course, appetisers, desserts and as garnishes.

Vegetables, herbs and micro cresses that were once imported from Australia, all over Asia and Europe is now primarily sourced locally. Similarly for meat, we have switched within food groups to purchase local.

Our fishes and shellfish that were previously sourced from Europe, now come from Ah Hua Kelong. We now purchase local vannamei prawns from Universal Aquaculture instead of prawns from Indonesia or Vietnam. Instead of Curly kale from US and Bok Choy from Malaysia, we’ve switched to using the vegetables from Packet Greens, an organic farm in Singapore.

As I said, our switch to local produce has been comprehensive as we discovered its value in our dishes.

What value have you gained from using local produce? What are the benefits? Please quantify where possible.

First, local produce allows my restaurants to support our Farm-to-Table concept. We can now offer more dishes on the menu as we have access to local ingredients that reach us in a shorter time frame as compared to imported produce.

Secondly, we can source these produce at the peak of their freshness. This not only adds the natural taste to food but is also more nutritious and can be kept for a relatively longer time resulting in less wastage.

Supporting local produce also helps to build up goodwill between my restaurants and my customers. Getting local assures our customers of the safety and high quality of food due to the various strict regulations locally on the agricultural process eg. amount of chemicals or pesticides used. Customers now understand where their food comes from and appreciate the lower carbon footprints generated from supporting local businesses and farmers.

What do your customers say when they taste dishes cooked with local produce?

The freshness of the produce can be felt more distinctively as compared to using foreign produce and this elevates the taste profile in our dishes. Customers naturally appreciate it more and enjoy the dishes. Besides taste, customers also support the cause of supporting our local farmers and our endeavour towards making our nation more self-sufficient in food production.

What other local products would you consider using in the future? Why are you considering these products?

Quail, Quail Eggs, Goat’s Milk, Pink Mushrooms, Wheatgrass. These are products that are available locally by our farmers and interesting ingredients that can be creatively incorporated into my menu.

How do you intend to use them?

Frog legs could be served as appetisers, prepared lollipop style, then battered and fried. Quail eggs served as mini scotch eggs. Pink Mushrooms are perfect for vegetarian tacos – meaty and succulent, and with its colour reminiscent of bacon or ham, Wheatgrass for Kombucha.

What is your word of advice for other chefs in using local produce?

Give it a go! While the local farming collective may only be producing a small 10% of our food needs currently, there is a diverse variety of quality herbs, vegetables, fruits and seafood that may surprise and inspire you. Using local produce is also purposeful and supports livelihoods and sustainability efforts.

What are your thoughts on Backyard Productions’ drive to champion local farms?

I think that it is a brilliant initiative led by food distributor FoodXervices, to bring home-grown produce to F&B partners and heighten awareness of local produce.

Backyard Productions acts as a one-stop shop for local farms and allows F&B partners to easily make purchase decisions while being mindful of each food source and the benefits of selecting local.

In this day and age when inflation is at its peak and there is no sign of slowing down due to the constant disruption in supply chain process, we F&B operators must find the balance between food and operational costs versus what we charge our customers. It is arguably true that buying local is more expensive due to commercial limitations like land shortage and higher labour costs in Singapore. However, in the long run, buying local is a way of hedging against the sudden price fluctuations.

I would like to encourage all Singaporeans to take pride in choosing local produce. Singapore is now a global leader in vertical farming for urban agriculture, and that in itself is an incredible feat considering the many logistical challenges that we managed to circumvent and overcome.

The stage is set and it’s up to all of us farmers, consumers, F&B providers and retailers to play our part in order to make Singapore’s ambitious 30 by 30 project a reality.

lf-sufficient and sustainable as a nation.

About Taste & Dine

Taste & Dine is a series of dining events brought to you by Backyard Productions in collaboration with the best restaurants in Singapore to highlight our homegrown produce.

By working together with chefs to create a menu that uses locally grown and farmed produce, Backyard Productions aims to bring our homegrown gems to the forefront of the industry, making it accessible for all.

Enjoy dishes created by Chef Tzi Qin that are filled with local produce at Café Iguana @ Orchard, Rendezvous Hotel from 1st to 31st December 2022.

These dishes are available as an ala-carte menu, with prices ranging from $8 to $29. Make a reservation here.









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