TOS meets Jane Glacow, the chef behind Singapore’s first farmers’ market
First published on . Updated on 16 Jun 2013.
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Head chef at The Pantry Cooking School (75 Loewen Rd; 6474 0441), a small, candy-coloured café-cum-cookery school in a leafy bucolic enclave of Loewen Gardens, Jane Glascow has an infectious enthusiasm for food. ‘We had parsnips, giant aubergines, organic breads, peppers of all different sizes’, she beams, reeling from the success of her inaugural open-air food market that took place in February. ‘I looked at all the fruit and vegetables we had and I thought – this is awesome!’
Driven by a frustration with the quality on offer in Singapore’s supermarkets, and inspired by a recent trip to a farmers’ market in her home town of Guildford in the UK, this Singapore resident of 25 years’ standing decided to start her own monthly food bazaar that would offer rarefied, well-sourced, healthy produce at reasonable prices.
‘I had a huge desire to find better products, and I had the feeling that there had to be more out there than what you find in the stores here. I was so tired of going to the supermarket and finding woody old vegetables or plastic-wrapped fruit’, she says with an endearing frown. ‘No one seemed to care about quality. I wanted to change that.’
Her first attempt amounted to Singapore’s first-ever farmers’ market – a colourful mini-fiesta of fresh and cooked home fare that pulled together a mix of professional food sellers and home-baking hobbyists selling everything from gluten-free cupcakes, artisanal breads, imported organic vegetables and good old-fashioned British comfort food.
‘The olive people’ – a group that includes a former executive chef at the Shangri-La, ‘had entirely sold out by midday,’ Glascow reckons. There were also the husband-and-wife bakers who’d sold 80 loaves of own-made organic bread by 10am. Then there’s the upstart ‘allergy baker’ who makes specially made pastries and treats for the top eight food allergies in Singapore – gluten-free brownies are formidably popular, apparently.
There were three wine specialists, a giant paella and hormone-free chicken and other fresh meat from The Butcher (44 Jalan Merah Saga; 6472 0073). For Glascow’s end, she and her amiable cook Rose have set themselves up as purveyors of old-school British staples, selling freshly baked sausage rolls and other anglophile favourites. ‘It’s hilarious when I think about it,’ she says dreamily. ‘Teaching Singaporeans about Cornish pasties in 32-degree heat – it’s so cool!
Glascow enthuses about the project: ‘I want it be a celebration of food but also an education. I want people to leave with a feeling that they’ve bought something exciting or learnt a new way of cooking something.’ The Pantry offers free cooking demonstrations throughout the day from its spacious kitchen, which used to be a storeroom for the British army band’s musical instruments.
But for all this food market’s initial success, there are no plans to go weekly – the idea being that the market serves as inspiration rather than a replacement for a weekly shop. ‘It’s only once a month. You still have to go and do your shopping!’ Jane says with a broad, charming smile. ‘We’re just the yummy!’