THE FIRST SPARK
If your food isn’t burned, does it even taste of anything? That’s a rhetorical question, lah. I mean, look – I’m a culinary pyromaniac. I grill, smoke and char everything, and I’m all about those intense, punchy, gao flavours that don’t hold back. Fire doesn’t even burn me any more. I’m the guy they call the firelord of food. (They also call me Caramel Drizzle, but that’s a story for another day.)
Why do only burnt dishes interest me? I’m fascinated by the mastery of balance it takes to make flame-blackened food taste pure, juicy, sweet, and exploding with flavour.
That was something I once had to explain to a chef I was training. He was afraid to caramelise steak because he thought the restaurant guests would freak out if it looked burnt. I explained the Maillard reaction and how food that was black didn’t have to taste burnt or bitter; the trick was in how we applied fire to it. But in the end, the simplest way to make him understand was to shout over the din of the kitchen, “No burn, no taste!”
That turned into my battle cry: If you’re not torching, smoking and charring your food,
then, got taste meh?
At my old restaurant, Fat Lulu’s, I began developing a new kind of fire-driven barbecue with a distinctly Asian perspective, combining premium produce with traditional, time-honoured techniques. Here in Southeast Asia, we have spicy, umami flavours in our culinary DNA, and I knew it would be magic to marry them with the best produce from around the world. So, I made spicy satays using tender Iberico pork. I grilled Langkawi-style ikan bakar, but I used fat-rich hamachi collar for it. I took beautiful Spencer Gulf king prawns from South Australia and I served them with intense sambal cream and savoury Umami Butter.
It’s funny because looking back, the embers of this fire were lit when I was a teenager and everybody had barbecue parties at East Coast Park. Back then, it was frozen chicken wings, crabsticks glazed with honey and satays that were either raw or rubbery, nothing in between. But it didn’t matter because of the people, the outdoors, the music, and everyone sitting around the fire, escaping from reality for a while. It’s a satisfyingly primal kind of socialisation, like cavemen around a fire (except now, we have pants).
But life’s too short now to be eating subpar barbecue, or even catered barbecue food that’s just okay. In my opinion, if I were going to have a barbecue, I’d want it to be epic.
I wasn’t the only one. The deeper I ventured into the world of food and fire, the more insane flavours revealed themselves, and the more people started asking me to do private parties and pop-ups for their special occasions.
That was when I knew No Burn No Taste was ready to be shared with anyone who wants to experience the best that barbecue has to offer.
I really love being able to throw people the wildest barbeque of their dreams, a sensory experience that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world of private catering in Singapore. We roll in with everything on one trolley, and the next thing you know, we’ve set up a mobile kitchen. We’re grilling everything in front of you and putting it directly on your plate, accommodating your dietary preferences, and even sharing our BBQ playlist with you. We use the freshest produce and we love to highlight the natural resources we have here in Southeast Asia. For instance, our garlic butter grilled crab, which you won’t find in any restaurant, is smoked over lychee wood; while our ribeye steaks are smoked over mangrove wood for distinctive flavours.
Eat with your hands. It tastes better that way. Come grill with me if you want to. You can sneak the yummiest scraps right off the grill. On this incendiary journey, it’s all about charcoal, heat, spice, fat and freshness – with everything animated by fire and kissed by smoke. You want steamed tofu? Maybe next door.
Here, it’s no burn, no taste.