Living

Master Chef

by Justin Cheong
11.05.2017
Jimi Tegerdine – who has conceived a brand-new Saturday spread for LeVeL33 – always includes at least five dishes in his menus for his wife. Altogether now: awww

What was your childhood like?

I grew up in Essex, the only boy out of five children, and I wasn’t exactly a “boy” – I wanted to be in the kitchen cooking or brushing my sisters’ dolls hair cuz that was what they were doing. I even went to ballet because my sisters did! When I was 10, my stepdad – who was a scout leader – came into the picture, and he got me into camping and rock climbing. He told my mum, “Your son is too girly, but if he wants to cook, let him cook.” Mum would push me out the kitchen door and ask me to go in the garden and play, and dig for worms, but Papa would say, “If he wants to cook dinner for the family – God forbid what it tastes like – let him do it.”

What drew you to the kitchen in the first place?

When I was five, one of my sisters who is disabled and couldn’t go to school would stay at home and bake cakes and bread. Putting my finger in the bowl and tasting the cake mixes – that was my introduction to food. I would also watch Ready Steady Cook hosted by Ainsley Harriott and there was a segment with a mystery ingredient – and I would always imagine what dishes they could cook with it. Then my stepdad allowed me to get into the kitchen and he introduced me to the potato peeler. “This is how you use it. This is how much water you put in with the potatoes. Pinch of salt. Cook it.” That was the first thing I cooked – boiled potatoes. I boiled them dry because I got distracted watching cartoons on TV. I was so disappointed, I told myself “I’m going to be a chef”. 

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Level 33’s Executive Chef Jimi Tegerdine, 34, always includes at least five dishes in each menu for his wife.

What was your first professional cooking experience?

My parents couldn’t afford sending me to college – “go find a job, you have five weeks, otherwise you’re out on your arse” – so my first job was what I call a “microwave technician”. I had to man a bank of 12 microwaves. Obviously, it’s progressed a lot since then! My parents flew out five months after Level 33 opened in Singapore. My proudest moment was when my stepdad – who is not an emotional person – broke down in the dining room and he went “f*** me, kid, you made it”. (chokes up) God, I hate being emotional!

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Bacon Man-Cakes – something Chef Jimi cooks for his wife at home.

What were you inspired by for this new Saturday lunch menu?

We wanted to do something new, exciting and different, a menu you wouldn’t see for the other six days of the week, and it shows my skills of where I’ve worked around the world – New Zealand, Australia, south of France, London and Singapore, and those influences. And at least five dishes in every menu are for the wife [who is American], so in this menu, it’s the Man-Cakes (I cook them for her at home), the Kipler Fries (my rendition of a potato dish we had at basecamp on a mountain in Vietnam), the braised peanuts (you find this at gas stations all around Florida where she lives), the grilled market fish (a take on gindara miso cod; she’s obsessed with that) and the Peanut Bacon & Jelly.

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Grilled artichoke ceviche – tart and full of texture.
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Soft shell crab – comes with green mango and 33.1 Blond Lager chilli jam.

What’s your comfort food when you’re not working?

I eat a lot of Mexican food (because of the missus), and I love pasta with tuna, sweetcorn, mayonnaise and a really strong cheddar. Local food: Sambal stingray (that is phenomenal!), cereal prawns (we do that here every Chinese New Year), gong gong (love picking them out with a toothpick), and I’ve just got into shrimp paste!

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Confit salmon – rich and plated with squid ink.

LeVeL33, 8 Marina Boulevard #33-01, Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 1, Singapore 018981, tel: 6834 3133.

Open Mon-Wed 11.30am-12am, Thu-Sat 11.30am-2am, Sun 12pm-12am

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