First published on 12 Apr 2011. Updated on 13 Apr 2011.
In early 2011, Ryan Sonson stepped off the plane from the States and went straight into The Sentosa Resort & Spa’s kitchen. While the humble chef from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, admits to still getting used to the lifestyle and work responsibilities in Singapore, he wants to introduce a new menu. Soon. It will be ‘California-style’: dishes that creatively blend ingredients in season to bring out their fresh, natural flavours.
At the age of eight, Sonson made his first tapioca coffee parfait. He dreamt of becoming a heavy-metal star, until his grandfather convinced him to stop chasing rainbows. So he went to culinary school at Johnson and Wales University in Charleston, South Carolina. Now, with 16 years of culinary experience behind him – including stints at Mandarin Oriental Hotel
in San Francisco, Four Seasons Hotel in Newport Beach and Fairmont in Cairo – he’s become known for ‘keeping flavours clean and presentations simple with a dash of wow!’ Sonson likes to experiment with ingredients that do not usually go together, like salmon roe and hearts of palm – which he’s made into ice cream.
‘People are very cuisine-savvy, and word of mouth here gets around really fast…so that can be a killer, or it can open a lot of doors,’ he says of Singapore. So he’s approaching things with an Alice Waters philosophy: fresh ingredients. Grown in your backyard, if possible. Sonson is working hard to source for ingredients from nearby farms to ensure he serves only high-quality food. He also wants to build a terrace garden and a hydroponic farm close to The Garden, so he can show guests where their fruits and vegetables come from.
His 15-hour-a-day job might mean less time for hands-on work with food, but the strong-willed chef, who basks in the challenge of shaping his staff, has gladly risen to the demands of his executive role. ‘Dedicated individuals get me excited, because I can keep feeding them and watch them soak up everything like a sponge before they take it in their own direction.’ Despite his vast knowledge and experience, Sonson admits he still learns something new every day. ‘Keep sharpening your knife and always know what’s going on around you. There are no off days.’
The Sentosa Resort & Spa (2 Bukit Manis Road, 6275 0331) has four F&B outlets: The Terrace 7am-midnight; The Cliff 6.30pm-midnight; The Garden 10am-10pm; The Pavilion 10am-midnight.