Quiz Suzanne Goin on food trends, and the shadow of a grimace flickers across her countenance. The Los Angeles-born and -based chef, who bagged the James Beard Foundation’s Outstanding Chef award in 2016, states, “I’m anti-trend; things that tasted good to me 20 years ago still taste good.”
Perhaps terms such as farm-to-table make her a tad uneasy, but Goin has long been credited for championing the aforementioned movement. At her LA restaurant Lucques, which she co-founded in 1998, her sustainable slant on Californian- Mediterranean cuisine has been making Los Angeles diners sit up and take notice of individual ingredients such as kyoho grapes and kabocha squash.
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“My cooking involves having a close connection with local farmers and using seasonal produce. Farm-to-table should be the norm,” she says.
It’s this philosophy of using fresh produce, and letting their pure flavours sing, that Goin gracefully wields in her role on Singapore Airlines’ International Culinary Panel (ICP). And it’s one that has the same effect on palates, even when they are dulled at 35,000 feet in the air.
“Acidic flavours read well on the plane, so I like to use citrus juice in my dishes – whether it is cherry tomatoes in warm brown butter or a salad dressed in vinaigrette,” she explains.
Observing the charismatic chef – with eyes gleaming – effuse about the merits of letting the heat from chicken gently wilt raw spinach, you can’t help but be swept away by the Angeleno reverence for clean eating. Nor can you help picturing yourself on a southern Californian evening slashed with the colours of sunset, surrounded by beautiful people and food.
A night spent, perhaps, at the Hollywood Bowl, where Goin and her business partner Caroline Styne now oversee all food and beverage operations. This includes a trio of restaurants, including Lucques at the Circle and the backyard, which is equipped with wood-burning grills.
Clearly, Los Angeles is a city that informs everything Goin does, from living off the fat of the land to food presentation. “I like things to be visually appealing. I contrast rich flavours with brightly coloured sauces, or salsas and raw greens.”
But it’s not just the aesthetics of inflight dining that have evolved. Since she began collaborating with the Airline in 2011, Goin has noted a change in passengers’ meal preferences too. “When I first started, there was a lot more lobster and caviar on the menu. People are now looking for something simple and satisfying,” she shares.
She may be gleaning from personal preference, as a passenger who sees the wholesome appeal of udon in broth – which she ordered on her Singapore Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Singapore. That and a glass or two of vintage Krug, which she deems ‘the ultimate’, are this chef’s top choices.
So what’s next in her plans for the Airline’s inflight menu? “It would probably include what I’m working on at my restaurants. I did a whole new menu for the eateries at the Hollywood Bowl – there are lots of vegetarian choices, ” she reveals.
– TEXT BY CARA YAP
PHOTOGRAPHY: TAN WEI TE, ART DIRECTION: NG SAY LEE, GROOMING: ADELENE SIOW, HAIR: ANNIE TAY
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.