Singapore

Cook’s wish to prepare lunch for President Halimah comes true

Cook with mild intellectual disability invited to prepare lunch for President after she spotted him in news report

Singaporean cook Paul Simon's ambition was to make lunch for President Halimah Yacob.

Yesterday, his wish came true when the head of state enjoyed a three-course meal he had prepared at the Istana.

"I never expected to get this chance," said Mr Simon, who works at Shangri-La's Rasa Sentosa Resort and Spa.

Madam Halimah was touched after reading a report in The Straits Times last month in which the 26-year-old expressed his desire to cook for her. She asked her staff to reach out to Mr Simon.

He was one of seven people with disabilities featured in an article to mark the International Day of Disabled Persons.

Mr Simon is a graduate of the APSN Delta Senior School and has a mild intellectual disability.

He said he wanted to choose three dishes that would go well together, so he opted for mango salsa salad, chicken briyani and sweetcorn sago. The briyani gravy was based on a family recipe passed on to him by his mother, who inspired him to start cooking when he was 14.

"The starter is light and refreshing to prepare for the main course, which is of stronger flavour," he said.

"The dessert is hot so it will go down smoother."

He spent yesterday morning slicing red chillies, mixing the briyani gravy and sampling the rice to ensure it was just the right texture. The Istana had bought the ingredients before he arrived at 9am.

Mr Simon told ST that he was nervous. But he quickly got into his stride when he was assisted by junior sous chef Muhammad Adi Rezza Fauzilan, 28, who is the President's personal chef.

Madam Halimah praised Mr Simon's cooking, saying the salad was "very good and fresh", while the rice was "light and fluffy".

"You can have a very good career (in cooking), because good food will never go out of date," said Madam Halimah, as they enjoyed dessert together for about half an hour.

Mr Simon said: "I really want to open my restaurant in the future, so for now, I am trying to go for more studies and be more stable first."

Food & Drink