I ONCE went to a dinner party hosted by Jonathan Chan. It was his girlfriend's birthday and he had slaved the entire day in the kitchen, cooking up a feast.
By the end of the evening, a friend and I were flat out and panting on the floor. Not because we had too much to drink but because we had gorged ourselves on at least five helpings of one of his culinary creations - foie gras fried rice with apricot. It was that delicious.
'I was going through a fried rice phase when I came up with that dish. Foie gras goes well with something which is sweet or tart, it also goes well with starch,'' said the former New York-based venture capitalist. The Singaporean now helps to run his family's steel pipes business
The economics graduate from New York's Columbia University also recently opened his first restaurant, Mimolette.
Located next to the Greendale Riding Club off Eng Neo Avenue, the eatery - converted from an old riding school - has been attracting a steady stream of foodies since it started business two months ago.
Chan is not the chef but he is responsible for the menu - which he describes as a 'Chinaman's take on American cuisine'. Items include foie gras tortellini with truffle sauce ($18 for a starter portion) and the Mimolette wagyu burger ($32).
It's not his first foray into the food business. The 32-year-old also founded Magic Meal Mobile, which delivers healthy meals based on the South Beach, Zone and Ornish diets to your doorstep.
The dishes - devised by Chan - are cooked by a team of chefs at a kitchen in Bukit Timah. Costing $35 for five meals a day, dishes include smoked salmon omelette, tuna salad with arrabiata salsa for lunch, portobello mushroom with herbs.
He started the outfit three years ago after his father underwent a heart bypass operation. Healthy dining options, he discovered then, were not plentiful in Singapore.
'Magic Meal Mobile is food for the body, Mimolette is food for the soul,'' Chan said.
His paternal grandmother helped him cultivate his love affair with food.
'My tastebuds have been spoilt by her,' said the slim, bespectacled foodie who loves Japanese anime.
'I learnt a lot of my cooking techniques from her. She was an extravagant cook, using only the best ingredients. For example, even after making a pot of chicken consomme, she would chill it, discard the top and bottom layers and serve me only the middle portion where the stock is clearest and most flavourful.''
The chicken abalone recipe, which he shares with LifeStyle this week, is an 'heirloom recipe' which he inherited from her.
Having a doting grandmother - who was also a great cook - meant that he did not have to enter the kitchen.
He suffered when he was an undergrad in New York. He missed her cooking so much that he did the next best thing. He learnt to do it himself by calling her and their Filipino maid on the phone for precise instructions.
He proved an adept learner. Very soon, he started taking ad hoc courses after work at cooking schools like the French Culinary Institute or the Culinary Institute of America.
He also read up extensively and cites the Larousse Gastronomique as one of his favourite cookbooks because it is such a 'great reference guide for anything you want to know about cooking'.
He loves to experiment.
He said: 'Cooking is like painting. In painting, you have different colours and different mediums to play with.
'Same thing with food, you have different ingredients and different techniques. A painting affects you on a visual and emotional level; food can affect you on almost every sensory level too.''
Like his beloved grandmother, his forte, he said, is 'my soups and stocks'.
'One of the reasons my food tastes, erhmm, decent is because I spend a lot of time on my stocks. With good stock, you can make good sauces and many other things.''
Chan - whose grandmother is now 91 and senile - said: 'I have only one regret. That my Grandma, who taught me so much, cannot enjoy my cooking today.'