22 Sep 2017


TEXT BY Population.sg
Taiwanese chef Andre Chiang is a no-nonsense drill sergeant in his kitchen, demanding only the best from his staff. But when one of his new hires got into a horrific accident, the two-Michelin star chef showed his compassionate side.

An excerpt from Population.sg, read more about Chef Andre's Singapore story at - Population.sg

In early 2013, Singaporean chef Mohamed Al-Matin, who had graduated from culinary school, signed up to work with Taiwanese celebrity chef Andre Chiang in his eponymous restaurant.

But before he started work at Restaurant Andre in the heart of Chinatown, the Singaporean went missing. “He disappeared, he stopped replying to my e-mails and messages,” said Chiang, who was bewildered.

Turns out, Matin, as he is known to friends, was nearly left to die in a hit-and-run accident in New York. While out cycling in the Big Apple, he was hit by a car driving on the wrong side of the road as it was fleeing a violent crime. He struggled to survive, drifting in and out of consciousness in hospital for weeks.

When he finally woke up, he was bedridden with metal plates inserted in his left arm and left thigh, and metal braces to support his left calf and right thigh. He had also lost function of his right hand. He was in no shape to work, let alone take up a new job.

When Chiang learnt about the accident, he wrote to Matin and assured him that the job would remain his, “Don’t worry, we will keep your position for you until you are able to stand up and work. You have to get better.”

Thus began a unique connection between Chiang and Matin, forged from tragedy and built by a shared passion for cooking.

Five months later, in late 2013, Matin finally returned to Singapore. He was still in no shape to work, and only able to stand up and walk short distances. But Chiang saw beyond his physical limitations.

“Matin said he couldn’t work. I said, yes you can. Cook with your brain, not cook with your body,” Chiang said during an interview, sharing how he persuaded the young chef to come to his restaurant and imagine how he would make desserts or other dishes in his mind.

He told Matin, “You cook with your imagination. You smell strawberries, you smell somebody frying, it gives you inspiration. Combine and collect these flavours, and then you will get better soon.”

Slowly, after a few more months, Matin regained his strength and stepped into the kitchen to whip up his magic with desserts – under Chiang’s tutelage. Today, Matin, who has risen to the post of head pastry chef, still wears a plastic brace on his right hand for support.

In all this time, Chiang, 41, never wavered in his support of Matin, 28, one of many Singaporean chefs he has trained since setting up his highly-acclaimed restaurant at Bukit Pasoh Road in 2010.

25 Sep 2017