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What happens when dads cook

Life’s most important lessons often begin at home. While my mum was never one to nag or compare life to a box of chocolates, she always found a way to remind her children about the importance of food and family. And I did learn from her how to cook. As a father of two girls, I can only hope that it is at least proof to my daughters that the apron is a dependably unisex garment.

Life’s most important lessons often begin at home. While my mum was never one to nag or compare life to a box of chocolates, she always found a way to remind her children about the importance of food and family. And I did learn from her how to cook. As a father of two girls, I can only hope that it is at least proof to my daughters that the apron is a dependably unisex garment.

Dad in the kitchen? Why not? Professionally, men have always dominated the kitchen. But at home, especially in Asia, it has been the wife’s domain. Not any more though. If the growing popularity of reality cooking shows such as MasterChef Asia and MediaCorp Channel 8’s Neighbourhood Chef (now in its second season) is anything to go by, it seems more fathers have moved their man cave into the kitchen.




Aun Koh, 42, of Chubby Hubby blog fame and CEO of the recently re-opened Coriander Leaf restaurant (at Chijmes) and chairman of The Ate Group, said: “You see more guys learning to cook well, first for survival and then later because they simply fall in love with it,” he mused, pointing out how the science of it all is also a key attraction. Indeed, while the blowtorch remains a quintessential kitchen accessory for the cooking man — and which guy doesn’t love a good blowtorch? — today’s home chefs are just as comfortable splurging on a S$700 sous vide machine, or even more on a restaurant-grade ice-cream maker.

Some men, Koh said, are into the craft and creativity, while “others have discovered that a great home-cooked meal will make any girl swoon”. “For me, it’s both a creative release as well as a way to release stress. I also simply love feeding people,” he said.

While he did not get into cooking as a kid, he described his father, Professor Tommy Koh, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as a true gourmand, despite his preference for really healthy eating. He made sure his two sons were exposed to a diverse range of cuisines from a young age, Koh said, which was how he had already discovered a love for food by the time he started cooking for himself while studying in university in New York City.

Because work and his two young children — four-year-old Toby and his five-month-old sister, Tara — take up “so much time”, Koh said he makes up for it on weekends and special occasions, including Father’s Day. “I also try and schedule feasts for my parents and in-laws to thank them for spending so much time looking after our kids while we are at work. And the best thing about a Father’s Day meal is actually the same thing any time you host loved ones, and that is being able to give them something honest that you made yourself, with love and the very best of intentions.”

Koh’s ideal celebratory meal would start with a little sashimi — or even a nuta (a Japanese mixed raw-fish salad with dressing), followed by a slightly modern version of Lobster Americaine, which his father loves. “I’m sure the dish reminds him of those younger days when he was living and entertaining in the United States,” he said, adding that he would follow that with grilled Wagyu beef served with beetroot-red wine sauce on the side, homemade pickles, a simple salad and a bowl of Japanese rice.

“My father-in-law is a beef guy so he’ll appreciate a nice cut of Japanese Wagyu, but I’d serve it Asian-style with lots of vegetables to make all the wives happy,” Koh explained.

But it is also the simple things that bring the biggest pleasure for Koh. Such as the dish of steamed egg custard with minced pork and salted duck egg yolks that his mother used to cook for him as a child. “Over time, my wife and I have adapted the recipe so we can make this with different stocks, from dashi to homemade chicken stock. We now feed our son this custard, sometimes with pork, sometimes fish, sometimes just veggies. I’m thrilled that it is also one of his favourite dishes.”




Alvin See, a senior vice-president at a global bank, is also a passionate home cook who cooks for his family “almost every weekend”. His ideal Father’s Day meal, though, is a simple home-cooked meal prepared by his children, said the 42-year-old father of three, who in 2010 started a popular blog called Chef And Sommelier (, where he doles out tales of his life in the kitchen — recipes included.

He still remembers the Hakka “lei cha” dish his mother used to prepare when he was a young boy (she passed away when he was five), but See said that his fervour for food was also partly because of his dad.

“My dad loves to cook too and my passion for food, and style of Chinese cooking, are very much influenced by him. Every meal that he cooks for us when we visit him is memorable,” See said.

He explained that one of the reasons he started his blog was to “deposit” treasured recipes, which include those of his family’s favourite dishes. “Ashley, my eldest girl, loves my sous vide duck breast. Audrey, my second, loves the 72-hour sous vide beef short ribs and the youngest boy Ashton, 7, loves my roast pork belly.”

But the dish he holds particularly close to his heart, especially now that he is a father, is his grandmother’s lor mee. “My paternal grandma used to be a lor mee hawker and I grew up helping her at her stall. I am very close to her as she took care of me and my sisters when my mum passed away ... Whenever I have a bowl of the sticky yellow noodle, I will think of grandma and that part of my growing-up years.”

For 57-year-old Philip Tang, who works as a consultant in the apparel industry and was based in Hong Kong for years, cooking for family and friends is something he enjoys, and the feedback he gets motivates him to try out new dishes.

“When I was always overseas, I would only cook when I was back in Singapore, which was mostly twice a month. But now that I’m back for good, I cook almost every day,” said the father of three children aged 24, 26 and 27.

One dish the family loves is the Hong Kong-style Swiss chicken wings, which remind him of “a very old” traditional Hong Kong cafe that the family would patronise every time they visited him. But the dish his wife and children love most is a family recipe: Braised pork belly in fish sauce.

“It’s an old recipe passed down from my grandmother to my mum to me; it’s a recipe that can never go wrong,” he said. It is also a dish that will not require the costly gadgets and cookware Tang loves (he has a Mauviel M’Heritage copper frying pan, which can cost around S$300).

Because he used to be absent for Father’s Day, Tang said he is looking forward to this year’s. “I was always away for work because I was stationed in Hong Kong and have always missed celebrations such as Father’s Day,” he said. “Maybe the most memorable Father’s Day meal will be the one this year, now that I’m back in Singapore for good. I love the Italian culture and cuisines, and it would be nice to have an Italian meal with my family and have some wine, cheese and cured meat.”

His children enjoy cooking and he enjoys teaching them. It brings families together, said Tang, whose most memorable meal with his father was a meal he had prepared. “We had steamed crabs that day. It was the last meal I had with my dad, together with my sister and brothers before (my father) passed away ... ”

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