Meet the fashion veterans who have also set up restaurants in Singapore

Who says people in fashion don't like food?

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Food, like fashion, goes through cycles. Sure, there are the perennials and classic dishes that time does not forget, and that are impervious to fads. But in large part, the popularity of cuisines, alas, does wax and wane.

As a typical food-loving Singaporean, in the last two decades alone, I have seen many types of foods and ways of eating make the hot list, and not long after, become passé – everything from haute cuisine, hawker fare, to desserts and snacks. While both the food and fashion industries are, in my view, progressive, and full of game-changers, the palates of foodies and the food industry in general, are also as fickle as fashion.

But not all passions for food are fleeting – not especially for these glamorous gourmands, for whom food has always been a deeply-rooted part of their lives.  Far from chasing a food trend, these folks from the luxury and fashion lifestyle industry are committed to making their food business their new black. And black, as we know, is never out of style.

FROM LUXURY TO LEGACY

Fiona Tang-Manini, together with her husband (both pictured above), co-founded recently-opened Italian restaurant, Casa Manini. The self-professed stylist, crafter, foodie and art and nature lover also heads up the regional marketing department of a luxury Italian brand in Singapore.

Food has always been an integral part of my life.
“I used to observe my mother in the kitchen and would help out where and when I could. Besides daily staples, I would also make maki rolls and sushi for Saturday lunches, pancakes for Sunday breakfasts, and ondeh ondeh (gula melaka balls) as dessert for the weekends. My husband and I have also been entertaining together and hosting food gatherings since we started dating. On the eve of our early morning ROM appointment, I whipped up dinner for a party of over 40 people. That was our first ‘major’ function.”   

I want diners of Casa Manini to feel right at home.
“Casa Manini is fashioned after our home – a warm, welcoming, artistic environment, where friends and family gather, where old friends make new friends with people whom we bring together. I grew up watching the comedy sitcom Cheers and their tagline ‘Where everybody knows your name’ is the kind of familiarity I want diners to have. It’s all very La Famiglia… a place where you can celebrate happy occasions, catch up with people who make you happy, or just enjoy some ‘me’ time, or what we like to call, Il Dolce Far Niente: the sweetness of doing nothing!”


It’s not true that fashion people don’t eat.
“I believe that fashion people do eat, but maybe they are just pickier? I love food, I don't count calories and I enjoy my beers, wines and spirits. In true Italian spirit, I enjoy La Dolce Vita!”

Casa Manini is the continuation of a family legacy that began in Italy.
“This restaurant isn’t an accessory that changes with the season. My husband’s grandfather was an architect who built the three-storey family home and restaurant called Ristorante Manini in the early 1900s. His grandmother Lucia helmed the kitchen. It will be the place where our two children have hands-on experience running the business. Our 10-year-old son told me: ‘Don't ever sell the business, Mummy. I want to run it and I want to pass it on to my kids.’ Now that's family commitment that transcends generations, not just for a season.” 

Casa Manini is at 14B Kensington Park Road. Call 62811286 or email reservations@casamanini.com.sg.


THE ART OF BEAUTIFUL COOKING


Tinoq Russell-Goh is one of Singapore’s most sought-after makeup artists, well known in fashion circles, and a private dining and catering chef, who also hosts in his own web cooking show The Thinking Chef . Besides enjoying making women look beautiful, his other great passion is cooking for big groups of people and connecting them with his large-scale private dining and catering set-ups. He often laments that, “I don’t know how to cook for two!”

Growing up in a kampong was integral to my food education.
“I come from a very large family, and my mom used to show us that food brings all of us together – whether our family or neighbours. I grew up in a kampong right next to a cinema in Pasir Panjang called Starlight, which had throngs of hawkers from different parts of Asia, like Indonesia, China, India. Many of them were also our neighbours, so I was exposed to different Asian cuisines from a young age.”

Casual, homestyle Asian cuisine with a focus on fresh locally-sourced ingredients is my style.
“When you cook with the best ingredients, it is often not lucrative. However, I want people who eat my food to understand that these are not hit-and-run dishes, but carefully crafted meals. I love making soups and fritters, and braising ducks. I use only the freshest ingredients, often local, and cook based on recipes that have been perfected over the years. I listen hard to what people like, especially when I am cooking for older people, and for birthdays and all. You can never cook when you are unhappy. It shows in your food.”

To book Tinoq’s home-style private dining and catering services, call 98162149 or email tinoqrussellgoh@gmail.com.


MODERN WOMAN MEETS CULINARY TRADITIONS


Former magazine editor and current freelance scribe Angeline Neo is the “founder and minion at The Modern Bibik (TMB)”, a boutique caterer and private dining service. She often jokes that she moved from one F&B (fashion and beauty) to another (food and beverage), though in essence, she feels the two are not necessarily so different. “Fashion and beauty are very cyclic beats - you see trends get revived over and over only to be interpreted differently to stay relevant with times. TMB is similar in that it aims to make culture, tradition and history relevant and interesting to more people, through food.”

My grandmother and her love of cooking are my greatest inspirations in life.
“She was a working Peranakan matriarch who still found time to cook for her family and friends. She was a great cook, not just in terms of culinary skills or technique, but also how meticulous she was in selecting ingredients, prepping the meal, giving time to each recipe. She was the one who taught me that cooking is a way of showing your love and concern without words. Today, I cook Peranakan, Thai and Indonesian.”

With TMB, you can choose from four different dining experiences.
“The motivation for TMB is a creative challenge – reviving the interest in traditional cuisine, finding it new fans and an awareness and appreciation of the culture through food. Great too if it makes me some money along the way. At the moment, TMB has four components: a catering menu, a private dining experience where I whip up meals at your home; a more intimate supper club experience at my apartment; and restaurant collaborations every quarter.”


A modern Peranakan feast is what I’ll whip up.
“Dishes are built around traditional Peranakan flavours, but with cheeky, surprising twists. The rempahs (spice blends) are made from scratch and founded on my grandmother’s traditional recipes, but dishes are interpreted in a modern way. Think babi asam or buah keluak bruschetta/crostinis/nachos, smoked duck pie tee or Bibik Bouillabaisse (mussel stew but done with rempah and coconut milk) or nasi ulam onigiri. If you’re opting for the supper club experience, you should set aside two to three hours for dinner, to eat, drink and make merry in a cosy environment – no different from being invited to a Peranakan home.”

TMB isn’t just a fashionable thing to do.
“The nature of fashion is fleeting; this has longevity, with legs to grow. It is an embodiment of personal style, and utilises my experiences in life. One of the things I do hope to achieve with TMB is to engage in conversation about traditions and cultures, and how they can continue to stay relevant in evolving times. And I can’t think of a better way of feeding the soul, while feeding your belly.”

To book The Modern Bibik’s private dining and catering services, call 98755128, email angeline.d.neo@gmail.com or visit https://www.facebook.com/themodernbibik.

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