We sit down with Han Li Guang, head chef of Singapore’s Michelin one-star restaurant Labyrinth. Chef Han is renowned for showcasing local Singaporean flavors and culture in his dishes but with an innovative and modern twist. At the Michelin Guide Street Food Festival in Macau running from October 5 to 8, Labyrinth will feature their crowd favorite wagyu short rib with satay espuma.
The festival at Studio City’s Macau Gourmet Walk is supported by Melco Resorts and Entertainment. The four-day event will see chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants, celebrated Bib Gourmand and Michelin-recommended eateries across Asia serving their street food creations and signature delicacies. This is one event you don’t want to miss—a star-studded line-up of eateries from Singapore and Japan will be coming to Macau to cook for the very first time. Entrance is free, and small plates start from MOP40 which can be bought with Street Food Coupons purchased at the event.
When did you first become interested in the culinary industry? How did you get your start in the kitchen?
I became interested in the culinary industry back in 2006 when I was doing my undergraduate studies in London—that was when I first heard of names like Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White, Albert Roux, etc. My first start in the kitchen was when I was working as an apprentice for free on weekends (whilst still working in the banking industry) at Garibaldi Italian Restaurant Singapore which also holds one Michelin star.
How was the transition from banker to chef? What did you learn?
It was a rude and harsh transition, yet somehow seamless and enjoyable as I really enjoyed the tough rigors of kitchen life and adrenaline versus my work in the bank. I learned that self-fulfillment and purpose in life were more important than making a lot of money.
What is your most memorable cooking experience to date?
The first dinner service at Labyrinth back in Feb 2014. It was the start of an amazing journey that I would never have envisioned.
Who is your dream dinner guest?
My grandfather. He passed on right after Labyrinth opened. He never got to savor my food (he was a restaurateur in the past).
What’s the one dish you’ve created that you’ll always love?
Labyrinth’s chili crab ice cream. Its simplicity and creativity truly represent Labyrinth and me.
Your restaurant Labyrinth is known for innovation of local fusion dishes. For our Macau readers, can you tell us more about what that is for your region exactly?
We are not fusion and don’t blend West and East. We are a subset of Singaporean cuisine and Labyrinth is an alternative expression of local street flavors and produce that bridges the gap between tradition and modern.
How did it feel to be awarded a Michelin Star? Has it changed you?
It is an amazing, dreamy feeling, a feeling that I still cannot articulate clearly, a validation of not just my but my entire team’s hard work and steadfast belief that our cuisine style works. The star hasn’t changed me but it has spurred us at the restaurant to want to attain new heights consistently and has shown us that we have the ability to achieve great things.
What do you usually eat on a day off? Are you the one cooking?
I hardly cook on my day off given the time I spend in my kitchen. I usually eat hearty comfort food depending on my craving, it could be bak chor mee, Japanese food, nasi lemak, etc.
Who has inspired you on this culinary path? Do you have any mentors?
I have many mentors, not official ones but people who have shaped my career, be it fellow chefs from within the industry or my family. The most important person is my grandmother who in my eyes, is the first and best chef I will ever know.
What are your thoughts on Macau’s culinary scene?
A great mix of fine dining to traditional street food. Tasting Room, Robuchon Au Dome have made their names around Asia and the world and at the same time, you can also have egg tarts and milk pudding on the streets.
How would you describe your cooking style in three words? What’s the most important part of your cooking routine?
New Singapore Cuisine. Flavours and produce close to my heart.
What’s the one street food dish we should watch out for at your presentation in Macau?
Short rib with satay espuma.
What makes it special?
Tender melt-in-your-mouth short rib with traditional satay sauce that does not overpower the flavors of the short rib.
Do you have any advice out there for anyone wanting to be a chef?
Think 100 times before committing yourself to the industry. You will hate your job but it is also a job that you will never want to trade off for anything in the world.
What’s on the horizon for yourself? Will we see a Labyrinth open up in Macau someday?
I would love to introduce Singapore cuisine to the world—beyond its current definition of chili crab, chicken rice, and Singapore fried noodles—through any channels. If someone comes to me with an offer this trip to open a Labyrinth in Macau, why not?
When: 12:00pm–8:00pm, October 5–8, 2017
Where: Macau Gourmet Walk, Studio City, Macau
How much: Free admission