US chef Jet Tila, who will be here Aug 20, has nothing but praise for S'pore's 'ever-growing' Thai food scene
Chef Jet Tila has become a familiar face to fans of culinary TV shows, ever since he battled it out on popular cooking series Iron Chef America in 2011.
The Los Angeles (LA) native is also a regular judge on Food Network's Cutthroat Kitchen.
The 41-year-old was appointed the first Culinary Ambassador of Thai Cuisine by the Royal Thai Consul General in LA in 2013. He will be in town later this week for the inaugural Chang Sensory Trails, a food and music event hosted by Chang Beer to promote iconic Thai flavours.
For his first visit to Singapore, the renowned restaurateur and food consultant is working with some local Thai restaurants such as Long Chim, Tamarind Hill and Nara Thai to curate a menu inspired by his personal memories.
These dishes, Tila told M via e-mail, represent "significant seminal moments" in his life.
Rochor Thai's grilled pork collar
For instance, Long Chim's cured pork fritters remind him of how he first picked up cooking in his grandmother's kitchen, while Rochor Thai's grilled pork collar takes him back to the time when he met his wife "while teaching a cooking class".
Tila, who trained at the famous Le Cordon Bleu, said Singaporeans are blessed to be exposed to such a variety of cuisine from around the world and are no strangers to Thai fare.
"From high-end restaurants to affordable, authentic eateries, the Thai dishes are truly represented and the scene is ever-growing and blooming," he said, adding that he may consider opening a restaurant here in future.
"It's tough to narrow down the appeal of Thai food, but I do feel Thais are the masters of finding the balance between hot, sour, salty, sweet and savoury."
Growing up, Tila worked at his family's famed Bangkok Market - the first-ever Thai grocery store in Los Angeles in the 1970s - and Royal Thai restaurant. He spent time learning the ancient traditions of Asian cuisine from his Cantonese grandmother.
Long Chim’s cured pork fritters
Being a celebrity chef was not something he had ever envisioned for himself.
"But when people start to recognise me on the streets, I guess I've reached a certain level of celebrity," he said.
"The most important thing is to always remember what makes me a celebrity, and that's the fans. So I will always say hi or take a photo or sign an autograph. I'm grateful to do it."
Tila wears many hats, but the one he loves most is being a teacher.
"I love teaching, and I can teach in cooking," he said.
"And when I'm judging, I try to offer words of wisdom that may give some insight. So in everything I do, I try to be a teacher."
He will be doing just that at Chang Sensory Trails, sharing his favourite recipes, including his signature Drunken Noodles dish.
Said Tila, who specialises in Thai and Chinese cooking: "Thai food is like a journey. If you are really into it, you start to eat and study, and hopefully it brings you to Thailand to try real Thai food."
WHAT: Chang Sensory Trails
WHEN: Aug 20, 2pm
WHERE: Bayfront Event Space
TICKETS: Admission is free