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Justyn Toh
Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

Food

Foodie Confidential: Simple food satisfies him

The Straits Times | Justyn Toh | Tuesday, Jul 29, 2014

Chef Logan Campbell works at Buttero in Tras Street, which serves rustic Italian food.

Before joining Buttero in Tras Street, chef Logan Campbell worked at Lucio's Italian Restaurant in Paddington, Sydney, for 12 years, which he considers an eternity in an industry where people job-hop frequently.

The restaurant has been awarded many accolades, such as two hats in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.

The youngest of five children says: "I was there for so long because I was given the opportunity to do whatever I liked."

The Gisborne, New Zealand, native adds: "I left because I felt I wasn't at my full potential and it was time to move on."

He got the job here through Mr Barry Polson, a friend he made while working at Lucio's. Mr Polson conceptualised and designed Buttero.

The restaurant, set up three months ago, serves rustic Italian food.

Buttero, which is Italian for a cowboy of Tuscany, has a wall mural of an abstract buttero which greets diners as they walk into the 42-seat restaurant. It was painted by Hong Kong-based street artist Cara To, who is known as Caratoes.

Chef Campbell, 36, who moved to Singapore in January, says he feels a greater sense of achievement when he cooks for friends at home as compared with preparing fine-dining meals.

"Lucio's and all the other restaurants I have worked at are top-end restaurants and I was getting tired. I would much rather cook for my friends a pizza than charge someone $800 for a degustation menu," the father of three says.

He decided to come to Singapore as he feels there is a market for casual dining here.

On why he chose the path of being a chef, the child of chef-parents says: "Cooking was all around me, it was a normal thing. I wanted to be a pilot, but I wasn't smart enough. That was an ambition I had when I was young."

His father worked as a chef on large ships, while his mother worked in cafe kitchens.

Apart from working in restaurants, Campbell has also cooked on television.

He was featured in three seasons of the Australian version of Ready Steady Cook, a British TV series, from 2009 to 2012.

What was Ready Steady Cook all about?

It was a cooking competition in which two chefs would compete in a cook-off.

We would each be given 20 minutes to make four dishes from a mystery basket of five ingredients that an audience member put together. We were allowed to use ingredients from the pantry.

What were the difficulties you faced on the show?

Because contestants would have to help us, we would have to direct them on what to do. Usually, they would have zero culinary experience. On top of juggling four dishes, we also had to communicate with the host of the show.

It taught me to be highly organised and to think on my feet. I had a lot of fun.

How did you get the opportunity to be on the show?

I was approached by the producers when I was working at Lucio's.

What was your childhood like growing up in New Zealand?

We were a big family so it was not easy. We didn't have a lot but, for the most part, we were happy.

A lot of what we ate was grown and raised in our backyard and I would often watch my father as he prepared wholesome family meals and tended to our fruit trees and family livestock.

What was the first dish you made?

The first dish I made was poached eggs when I was eight. I put an entire block of unsalted butter in a pan and poached the eggs in the foaming butter at a very low temperature. My paternal grandmother taught me this method and I still do it to this day.

Where did you learn to make Italian food?

Not from school. School taught me French techniques.

I wouldn't say I do traditional Italian food, but neither is it fusion. It's more of an approach.

The way I make Italian food is to highlight the best of each ingredient and to treat it with respect.

What is your favourite cuisine?

There are too many cuisines that I like. I can't say with confidence a specific cuisine because it might be my favourite for that day and change the next.

What is your favourite local dish?

I love the steamed chicken rice from Tian Tian at Maxwell Food Centre because it looks healthy, simple and straightforward. However, I now know it's not exactly healthy.

What's the difference between Sydney and Singaporean diners?

Sydney diners will eat and then leave. They don't really stay for long. You won't even know if they had a good time.

Singaporean diners give feedback. It might not always be the nicest thing to hear, but I feel it's important for growth.

What would be an essential ingredient in your pantry?

It would have to be eggs. You can make everything with eggs - breakfast, lunch, dinner and even desserts.

What would be your guilty pleasure?

Milk-chocolate buttons. I don't care if they are for baking or eating. I always have them stocked in my fridge.

What are your plans for Buttero?

We'll have more Buttero outlets, but each would have its own focus.

For example, the next outlet could be Buttero Pasta, where we do all sorts of pasta. It'll still be a casual dining experience.

WHAT WOULD YOUR LAST MEAL BE?

If I knew it would be my last meal, I wouldn't be that keen on or interested in eating it. But if I didn't know, I would probably want a nice piece of grilled snapper with crisp skin. I would have some garlic mashed potatoes with lemon butter and a peppery rocket and shaved fennel salad with a mustard honey dressing.

justynt@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on July 27, 2014.
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