Restaurant Andre, located in Singapore, has been one of the highest rated and most desired reservations for much of the past ten years. On February 14, 2018 they served their last menu. The founder, Chef Andre Chiang, plans to move back to his birthplace, Taiwan, and will pursue the next stage in his life, which at this point remains something of a mystery. His interviews would indicate he plans to pursue educating young Asian chef wannabes but no concrete plans were let known. One thing is for sure and that is that Chef Andre will be active in the food world for many years to come.
I was fortunate enough to get to spend several days at Restaurant Andre during their final days. His final menu consisted of 28 dishes. Many of which I photographed and will share in a future post. His original plan was to have 40 dishes but then realized that it may not be humanly possible to consume that much food in one sitting.
The final day of service began like any other day. Staff arrived in the morning and began preparations for that day’s service. The front of house team set out preparing the dining room while the kitchen crew began their food prep. Like a well oiled machine everyone knew their role and what they needed to do.
As the front of house team went about their tasks the kitchen crew was hard at work as well. The kitchen was a surprisingly quiet place. There was no yelling, no heavy clanging of pots and pans and very little talk. When team members did speak it was in a volume just loud enough to hear. It was not a somber environment but one of great concentration. Everyone knew what he or she needed to do and they just set about to complete each task. No one made a big deal about my presence and although I did my best to stay out of the way I always seemed to be in the way. The kitchen was small so anyone there that doesn’t belong there is going to disrupt the work flow. And despite my constant dodging and weaving and expressions like “pardon me” or “sorry” or “let me get out of your way” the team never outwardly showed any anger towards my presence. I suppose they knew that this was the last service and understood why I was there and simply considered me part of the final service.
On this final day of operation they did not have a lunch service but instead had a staff lunch party in which the entire team stopped what they were doing and joined together for a nice big lunch. In addition to the Restaurant Andre team there were also media invited from a variety of Singaporean news outlets. At the conclusion of the lunch the entire staff joined together for final group portrait. Spirits were actually pretty high at this time. Everyone just seemed to be enjoying the moment.
The mood, however, changed quite quickly when everyone went back in to the restaurant to resume their tasks. The media was invited in as well to watch a short documentary film about Restaurant Andre which was then followed by a group interview.
The person probably the most upset about the restaurant’s closure was Andre’s wife, Pam. Restaurant Andre has been a big part of her life for much of the past ten years. She has grown close to the staff and thinks of them all as her children. During the press conference she sat alone on the stairs, listening to questions and Andre’s answers while wiping away her tears.
After the media left it was back to work. Chef Andre found a quiet spot to connect with the outside world while the rest of the team went about their duties.
Then came the final pre-dinner briefing. The mood was heavy in the room. The end was near and many in the room didn’t want this restaurant to close. For some it meant the end of their jobs and for others an uncertain future.
With all the tables set and the food ready for final cooking and plating all that was needed was a house full of guests. As each guest arrived they were guided to the top floor, which is actually the restaurant’s office, to watch the same movie that had been shown the visiting media earlier in the day. At the conclusion They were then guided down a flight of stairs in which the walls on the stairwell were covered with photos and memories from the staff displaying the many happy moments they all shared together.
For Andre the rest of the evening was divided between welcoming guests, over seeing final cooking of dishes, making sure each food item was properly plated, and then heading back to the dining room to chat with guests. The amount of energy the man puts out is really quite remarkable. And at the end of it all he still doesn’t look tired.
And when the final plate was sent out all that was left to do was for Chef Andre to remove his apron and go around the restaurant and give each team member a hug and big thank you along with a few words of encouragement.
If you would like to see the story in its printed form in TK (Tasting Kitchen) magazine follow the link below.
Go to: https://issuu.com/tastingkitchen/docs/tk34_andre_last_days__s_