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Food, Singapore

Justyn Toh
Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014

Food, Singapore

Foodie Confidential: No to fast food, yes to sup tulang

The Straits Times | Justyn Toh | Wednesday, Jul 16, 2014

Chef Nixon Low of Portico.

Growing up in a kampung in Joo Chiat, chef Nixon Low was never a fan of fast food.

Instead, the 28-year-old head chef of Portico, a restaurant along Alexandra Road, preferred tucking into local dishes such as sup tulang, an Indian mutton bone marrow soup, in Geylang when he was in primary school.

"When I was young, I would be surrounded with local delicacies, such as traditional Teochew porridge, fried Hokkien noodles and kaya toast," he says.

His father, Mr Peter Low, 59, now a cabbie, used to be in the food trade too.

He was good friends with the owner of the Fei Fei wonton noodle brand, and ran a stall in Chinatown selling the noodles, before moving on to work in a factory that still supplies noodles to other Fei Fei outlets in Singapore.

Apart from eating, chef Low also found himself doing kitchen work at a young age. When he was five, he would chop cabbage with a plastic knife at his grandmother's home.

The bachelor says: "It was my most memorable experience because my hands would smell of cabbage, and my whole body would be covered in it. The cabbage would be thrown away, because it wasn't fit for eating."

Despite all this, he was uncertain of what he wanted to do until he enrolled in a diploma course in Hospitality & Tourism Management at Temasek Polytechnic. He had wanted to study marine biology but did not get into the course.

Although the three-year course focused more on the theoretical side of hospitality and tourism such as marketing and finance, students had to spend one semester on a module called culinary science. It meant cooking classes twice a week.

There, chef Low trained in the basics of Western and Oriental cuisine, and it was the place where he found his calling.

On being in a professional kitchen in the polytechnic for the first time, the 28-year-old says: "It was at school that I found my interest in cooking. I first made a pan-fried red snapper, which turned out to be undercooked. I felt that cooking was not as easy as it seemed, and there was a lot of science behind it."

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