A (kaya) toast to INSPIRATION
Canadian chef Anna Olson falls in love with S'pore food
She is Canada's baking sweetheart, hosting popular TV cooking shows Sugar and Bake With Anna Olson.
So it comes as a surprise that Anna Olson's new offering focuses heavily on savoury cooking.
Inspired With Anna Olson sees the 48-year-old pastry chef travelling to South-east Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Hong Kong to learn about Asian flavours and techniques, which she then take back to her kitchen to recreate her own dishes.
The 10-episode series premieres on July 29 at 9pm on Asian Food Channel (StarHub TV Ch 435).
"A lot of people don't realise that I was a culinary-trained chef first - pastry came after," Olson told M last week when she was in town to promote Inspired With Anna Olson.
"Being able to go back and forth (between sweet and savoury) has been interesting. I like the challenge.
"I did make it a point to include a sweet element in the show. Well, that is who I am," she added, laughing.
Olson is no stranger to Asian cuisine, having grown up in Toronto, which has a large Asian community, and travelled frequently to this region.
But she said it was from filming Inspired With Anna Olson that really opened her eyes to Asian food culture.
"I thought I was familiar with essential Asian flavours, but what I learnt was how little I knew," she said.
"It is one thing to taste the food at a restaurant or a hawker centre, but when you get to work with a food expert or chef who actually knows those dishes, it is really different. It was humbling to know how little I knew," added Olson.
While it was hard to pick her favourite city, she said her time with local celebrity chef and food ambassador Violet Oon was precious.
INSPIRED: Olson with local TV food host Sarah Benjamin.
Olson shot an episode with Oon who shared the heritage of Peranakan cooking.
She also introduced Olson to a local staple, the kaya toast.
"The kaya toast... just a spread of the coconut jam and smack butter in between... how can something so simple be so delicious," she gushed in amazement.
"The day I got to spend time with Violet was incredible. I fell in love with her and wanted to take her home."
Calling Oon "insightful and inspirational", Olson said she admired Oon for "painstakingly preserving dishes and their heritage".
"Cooking with someone like chef Oon is emotional, as it reminded me of the times I had with my grandmother, who was the reason I became a chef.
"My grandmother was a passionate home cook, and it was her love for cooking and sharing that inspired me to become a chef.
"I really value and appreciate the family values here."
Olson also had a chance to savour the famous Beach Road Prawn Mee with local food host Sarah Benjamin.
"I learnt from the stall owner how to make rich broth and was instantly inspired to apply it to my lobster chowder," said Olson.
"I also found out that your carrot cake is so unlike our carrot cake.
"Oh, yes, I also discovered the wonders of dark soya sauce which I never knew existed. I knew only light soya sauce."