One of the biggest perks of living in Singapore is that you get to try food from different cultures and of course, the city-state is definitely an Asian food haven! Recently, I was invited to a tasting at bamboo bowls, where I was served amazing Chef-created Asian bowls- I tried Thai and of course, Bombay!
The food was amazing and the best part is that they leverage technology to offer a seamless contactless service. You scan a QR code and place your order, when your food is ready, the bowl appears at their pick up station and that’s it! To avoid food wastage, compostable bins are installed in-store for the sustainable disposal of empty bowls.
bamboo bowls solidifies its position as Singapore’s go-to for fast, sustainable, healthful Asian bowls created by renowned and celebrated chefs. In-store tech offers a seamless, contact-free experience with the freshest bowls. bamboo bowls’ mission is to create fast Asian food that’s better for you. Their bowls are over 50% organic, sugar-free, unprocessed, unrefined and based on a whole-food plant-based framework with ethically sourced meat options and low-carb alternatives.
The restaurant’s revolution focuses on healthful food and sustainability without impacting affordability, flavour and efficiency. The eight Asian Bowls from Bangkok, Saigon, Tokyo, Sichuan, Bombay, Bali, Seoul, and Singapore were created by eight renowned culinary experts — Chefs Justin Hammond, Bjorn Shen, Jay Morjaria, Jowett Yu, Mano Thevar, Nic Philip, Keith Wan and Eugene Chan.
We interviewed Chef Justin Hammond (CJH) to learn more about his role at the restaurant and more.
TVM: Could you share more about your unique culinary style called “Progressive Japanese”
CJH: Progressive Japanese was a style I created when I first started Neon Pigeon here in Singapore. The philosophy behind it was simple: Japan has very traditional methods, techniques and recipes. I decided to play with the idea of taking a traditional recipe and “taking out” a traditional ingredient and “switching in” an unconventional ingredient. Also, why not take 2 traditional recipes and merge them together somehow? Or use a very traditional technique on a new ingredient or in a new and exciting way? At this moment, progressive Japanese was born.
TVM: I understand that you have been always encouraged by your parents to use farm-fresh produce and pursue cooking as a way to express your love of nature, food and design. Could you share more about your early inspirations and motivations growing up?
CJH: Growing up in a small country town, we would always be in nature and jumping off rocks into rivers, camping and fishing. I think this connects me to a deeper understanding of nature and produce and how they intertwine together. I’m from a farming region, so one of my very first jobs was milking cows. We had chickens growing up and would collect eggs daily. Harvesting our vegetable garden out the back of our house made me understand the connection between earth & nature, food & nutrition, and how the body feeds off the earth is sort of a big circular way. Nature and nurture are big inspirations for me when I cook because when you cook, you’re nourishing somebody’s soul.
TVM: Could you share more about your time in Japan and how that has shaped the chef you are today?
CJH: Working in Japan, obviously technique and repetition is a big focus for them and they are very particular with the reasons why they do everything. The biggest thing I learnt from working there is not wasting a single thing, and the connection of cooking intertwined with nature. In Japan, they will grill the whole fish, eat all the meat, and then put the bones back on the charcoal grill to crisp up and eat as a sort of “chip”. Their philosophy is, that if this animal died for our consumption, we must respect it and eat the whole thing and not waste a single part of that animal.
TVM: Why Singapore? I was headhunted to open Neon Pigeon here. I had never previously been here before, but found it really welcoming!
CJH: At such a young age, you have achieved quite a lot. What have been some of the main challenges and how have you overcome them? Working internationally in different cities has been 1 of my biggest challenges. Sourcing the produce and getting to know which distributor stocks what item can take a while in a new city. Throw in a language barrier and it makes it quite difficult! Also, adjusting to local palettes and systems can be tricky. My advice is to really keep your eyes open at all times. Be open to adopting local flavour combinations, practises and techniques. And, don’t ever be afraid of a challenge, however daunting it may be. That’s the perfect opportunity to learn something new. Even if you fail, you now have a window into something you’ve never tried before!
TVM: As a culinary director at Bamboo Bowls, what excites you most? Could you share more about the creative process behind creating this unique dining experience?
CJH: What excites me most about this project is that the possibilities are somewhat endless. There are so many layers to this concept, it’s almost like “how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go?” From the food tech side, we are blending some of that into nature, along with sustainability, which has never really been done before.
From the sustainability side, if you want to go “zero waste”, that is a mission unto itself! The plant-based food options, on the other hand, we are creating all of that Intellectual product in the house: from the vegan belachan, our vegan chicken stock powder or our monk fruit syrup, it’s all made from scratch in our cloud kitchen. It’s a lot of fun and hard work to be able to develop all these new things and get them on the menu. It’s definitely not your typical menu development process, so I think maybe I am possibly a little crazy to try and take on this project!
bamboo bowl’s mission is to redefine traditional Asian recipes through hearty and healthy bowls curated by regional chefs. As a healthy fast-food store with an innovative retail experience and original user-friendly app, it blends a mix of creativity, technology and sustainability.