A philosophy founded on the number eight, invented by Taiwanese Chef André Chiang

ARTICLE / 30 JUN 2016 / BY DIMITRIS PANAGIOTIDIS

André Chiang
Octaphilosophy: The Eight Elements of Restaurant André by André Chiang. Published by Phaidon.
Restaurant André. 41 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore / restaurantandre.com

André Chiang was born in Taiwan and moved from Japan to France at age 15. He worked in several Michelin-starred restaurants there, training under Pierre Gagnaire, Joël Robuchon and Alain Ducasse. Since its establishment in October 2010, Restaurant ANDRÉ has left an indelible impression on the Singapore culinary scene with chef-owner Andre Chiang’s OCTAPHILOSOPHY. Situated in the Chinatown area in a century old shop house, the Southern French nouvelle restaurant seats 30 persons and presents progressive beverage pairings and an exclusive, natural and biodynamic-only wine list including self-imported rare labels. The New York Times has named it as one of the “10 Restaurants Worth a Plane Ride” and Chef Andre Chiang was honoured as one of the 100 Chefs au Monde in 2015. In February 2016, Restaurant ANDRÉ was named #3 in Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants and #32 in World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Chef Andre Chiang co-owns five food and beverage concepts worldwide, inclusive of Restaurant ANDRÉ, Porte 12 in Paris, RAW in Taipei, Burnt Ends in Singapore and Bincho in Singapore.

Andre_chiang_taiwan_Cook_Book_004
Portrait photo of Chef André Chiang © Edmond Ho.

“Andre Chiang’s greatest inspirations come from nature, produce and art, as he grew up in an artist family while gastronomy for him is found in the search of the ultimate dining experience in all aspects. Being motivated by his hard working team and believing that ‘the tough day was yesterday”, he is probably halfway of completing his dreams. Andre Chiang defines success as the trust his guests have in him and his cooking while he finds happiness mostly through ‘the unexpected’.”

Unique. Pure. Texture. Memory. Salt. South. Artisan. Terroir. These are the eight most important words in Restaurant André. They are the backbone of everything that is created at Restaurant André. From a single dish to the restaurant’s overall philosophy – Octaphilosophy – is our method of encouraging and managing the creative process, and a principle to live by.

The initial question André Chiang asked himself at the very beginning of creating his first restaurant was, Who is André? How could he define himself as a chef and be ‘free’ from all the strong personalities he had previously as mentors? He felt the need to design his own personal framework, almost DNA-like, based on true self-knowledge and to encourage his own creativity.

andre_chiang_01
Octaphilosophy: The Eight Elements of Restaurant André by André Chiang. Published by Phaidon.

Every person is unique – their appearance, their way of moving, their heritage, their voice – but each person tends to do the same things over and over again. We repeat ourselves, even in different contexts. We are who we are and that’s what makes us human. Trying to filter what’s important from a whole life is challenging; remoulding those experiences into a useful tool, even more so. When André Chiang began the process of defining Restaurant André, eight words rose to the surface – and, from there, it all seemed so natural.

Andre_chiang_taiwan_Cook_Book_002
Kaffir Lime Consommé, Leek Ravioli, Root Vegetables © Edmond Ho.

He had always kept journals filled with drawings, ideas for dishes, pictures of furniture, colour samples and observations. For André Chiang these journals function as a filing cabinet of ideas: where the most important impressions are forwarded to the virtual album of his mind. Precious snapshots, all waiting to be developed when the time is right. André could clearly see the mantra-like repetition of eight words: unique, pure, texture, memory, salt, south, artisan and terroir. He realised that these words expressed the most fundamental aspects of his creative life. The idea of using these eight words as the founding principles of Restaurant André had been there all the time, almost too obvious to see. Or perhaps, in hindsight, he’d simply been waiting for the right moment to let out the true André.

But how could he find a way to use these words?

Eight words could easily be the keywords for eight dishes. A menu consisting of eight dishes! There it was: a philosophy founded on the number eight, as in the ancient Greek word octa. And in this way, André Chiang invented the word octaphilosophy.

“I really couldn’t come up with a person but I think the greatest inspirations come from the nature, produce and art, as I grew up in an artist family, so that always been my greatest inspiration.” ~ André Chiang

“Gastronomy for me is in search of the perfection of ultimate dining experience in all aspects.” ~ André Chiang