I have realised that PlateCulture [gives] you the chance to become tourists inside your own city
They say if you really want to understand a culture you should eat its food. One Malaysian start-up is allowing you to do just that – it brings together home chefs from all over the world to create their favourite dishes for guests.
Chef Bruno was busy putting the finishing touches to his dishes and his wife Shatz was pouring the wine… However, we weren’t in Bruno’s restaurant, we were in his home. For the French-born chef had decided to join the PlateCulture scheme, a Malaysian start up that is now in 29 countries, including Japan, Italy, the US, Philippines and Brazil. Chef Bruno, who used to work at the Hilton in London and on the QE2, has now made his home in Singapore. Chef Bruno says he loves nothing better than meeting new people and creating his favourite French dishes for guests to enjoy.
Chef Bruno is just one of the chefs who are cooking up a storm for visitors in Singapore. While Bruno is a professional chef, who has worked in some of the world’s best kitchens, other chefs who take part in the scheme are home cooks who are keen to share their recipes and a little about their culture.
PlateCulture guests book the chefs via the PlateCulture website. Here they will find a wealth of menus to choose from including Vietnamese, Malay, Indian and Thai among others. Some chefs in Singapore are even taking their visitors on market tours and showing them how to make the dishes at home.
The inspiration for PlateCulture came from a trip that the founder Reda Stare took in Kerala. Stare had been travelling around India for two months, when she was invited into a family’s home for a traditional dinner. The food that Stare tasted during that evening was nothing like what she had experienced throughout her whole time in the country. “It was one of those amazing evenings when you get to taste the best food and see the culture from inside,” says Stare. The foodie and travel addict knew that it was an experience that she wanted others to enjoy too. “The challenge was to bring this idea to the internet and find more people who had a passion for cooking, loved hosting people and sharing their culture.”
Stare enjoyed cooking her Lithuanian dishes for friends and this trip only inspired her to create a home-chef enterprise. She decided to quit her job and move to the multicultural city of Kuala Lumpur where she would reach out and see if she could find any other foodies who would like to join her in the endeavour. “I knew if from the beginning that PlateCulture should start in Asia and Malaysia seemed to me like a friendly environment in which to start,” Stare explains.
She started hosting Lithuanian evenings in Kuala Lumpur and could see immediately that it was giving people the chance to do more than sample a good meal. “I have realised that PlateCulture [gives] you the chance to become tourists inside your own city,” says Stare. “It gives you the chance to experience real Lithuanian cuisine for the night without having to buy a plane ticket.”
From the start, Stare could see that it was going to be a success. Every one of the chefs and guests said that the evenings had gone swimmingly. And Stare no longer had to approach chefs, they started approaching her. So it was no surprise that PlateCulture events then sprung up in Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong. “PlateCulture is about celebrating the diversity of food cultures, we aim to bring people together and share their love of food,” says Stare.
Bruno and his wife Shatz joined the scheme in 2015. They had spotted it on Facebook and thought that it would be a fun scheme to be part of. Since they joined they have hosted around 12 evenings. Bruno said that they’ve have lots of great evenings, but one of the most memorable was when they hosted a young bride and groom to be. “The man surprised his fiancee with a relaxing PlateCulture evening at our home amid the hustle and bustle of their wedding preparations,” says Bruno.
Bruno, who worked in Gordon Ramsay’s kitchen in London says, “We generally serve European fare. It is well accepted by most people and it also shows that cooking simple European food doesn’t have to be expensive.”
He says that the recipe to a great evening is great food, good company, an intimate setting and his famed Barramundi dish! Bruno also tries to create a wow factor for guests and for us this was three mini desserts – one of which was a crème brulee he set on fire.
However, Bruno is just one chef in the scheme who is keen to offer a new twist on eating out to Singapore’s foodies who are feeling a little blasé with all of the city’s great offerings.
Stare still enjoys hosting and taking part in PlateCulture events herself. “The last event was in my home city of Vilnius and before that I joined an evening in Hong Kong.”
She adds: “I am truly fascinated to see how similar people are throughout all the world. We all share the same core values. It is sad that nowadays we somehow forget that.”
Now there’s something to discuss over dinner…