Which is why it’s obvious that Octaphilosophy: The Eight Elements Of Restaurant André isn’t a conventional cookbook. With no perennial dishes to list in this publication, Chiang has instead opted to document everything that was created and served in his restaurant in the span of a year.
It’s a concept that showcases Chiang’s Octaphilosophy, his personal culinary approach, to perfection. Every dish revolves around its eight elements — artisan, memory, pure, salt, south, terroir, texture and unique — a set of founding principles that defines his cooking style and the philosophy of Restaurant André.
Sounds highly abstract? “Actually, it’s not,” says the chef, who, in demonstration of his point, laid bare his eight unique rules to inspire the world via this new tome.
Since opening the restaurant in Singapore in 2010, Taiwan-born Chiang has swiftly become a rising Asian star in the world of gastronomy. To become the subject of a Phaidon book is surely a statement of his status in the industry, an accolade not every award-winning chef has claimed. He tells us more about it.
To have a book published by Phaidon is quite an achievement. What does it mean to you?
It’s a very special project — I take it very seriously. There have been other book offers previously, but I didn’t want to rush things and have been waiting for the right moment to do this. I want to do it in the best way possible, and Phaidon is known for their focus on design, aesthetics and quality in every aspect.
What makes this the right moment?
This year, I’m turning 40… It’s also been five-and-a-half years since I’ve opened Restaurant André, so it’s another chapter [for the restaurant], too. We’ve had enough time to examine the things we cook and serve… everything is right, the restaurant has [established] its own tradition and language, all these things have come together.
Were there any reservations about revealing your recipes?
My own staff asked me the same question, too. To me, it doesn’t matter. We are very open, and I’ve never had a fixed recipe or menu because the dishes are changing all the time and my team works via their finely tuned senses. However, that led to a challenge in producing the book — since we had no actual recipes, we had to pen them down from scratch for all 190 dishes featured in the book.
The book is an inspirational resource, though many of its recipes seem rather complex for the average home cook. Who do you envision enjoying it?
People who are truly passionate about food, who appreciate aesthetics and the depth of cooking. They are the ones who know that there’s not only one way that you can cook something. You learn a recipe for roasted lamb leg, but it doesn’t mean that you can only roast lamb leg; you can roast chicken, using the same method and ingredients that you can get [more] easily [than those listed in the recipe]. So that’s not an issue.
What, to you, was the most satisfying part about the final product?
It achieved what I wanted to deliver — it’s not just a cookbook, but also a story about Restaurant André and Octaphilosophy. Because the restaurant doesn’t have classic dishes, we decided to do the book in a different way — documenting everything that has been created and served to diners in 365 days. I really enjoyed the way in which we constructed the book.
Photos: Edmond Ho & Phaidon