It’s true what they say about your early childhood experiences shaping you as a person you grow up to be. Growing up on his family’s farm near Brisbane, Australia, Chef Drew Nocente picked up lifelong lessons, that include kitchen philosophy as well. Surrounded by fresh produce and assisting family members work the home kitchen, Nocente who currently helms the contemporary grill Salted & Hung in Singapore, learnt to respect food. “It put me in line with what we do now. On the farm, we would butcher animals and use every part of that for the family. That’s been part of my philosophy and it’s been a natural progression for me, how I look at food and how I respect the ingredients in our kitchen,” he says.
Do more, with less
Nocente has worked his way up from being a 15-year-old assistant at a small restaurant in his hometown to becoming head chef of banqueting at Hilton Hotel in Perth at the age of 24. In 2008, he worked as a sous chef at Maze Grill, London, under the guidance of Gordon Ramsey’s protégé, Jason Atherton. “Jason is all about attention to detail, right from the kitchen to the restaurant. How to fold the napkins, right to keeping the washrooms clean. These seem like little things which in fact, are the major ones when you are running a restaurant of your own,” he asserts.
At Salted & Hung, Nocente follows the ‘less is more’ and minimal waste philosophy. “We may have only four or five ingredients on the plate but all those ingredients serve a purpose,” he emphasises. Using every part of the vegetable or meat is being seen as the way to go, with chefs all over the world trying to follow the ‘zero waste kitchen’ philosophy, but for Nocente, it’s been a way of life for many years now.
“The old school mentality was to throw away a piece of vegetable or meat if it was not perfect. But now, chefs are looking at food a little differently, and trying to use the ingredient in some or the other way. We have more techniques and equipment than we did ten years ago. [Now] there are different ways we can use it without worrying about whether [its] perfect or not,” adds the chef, whose Instagram bio proudly declares, ‘Sustainable eating can be delicious!’
Armed with years of experience in charcuterie and grill, Nocente has a number of techniques up his sleeve when it comes to food. But what it all adds up to, is ensuring that the maximum flavour has been extracted out of each ingredient. For the five-course meal, Nocente will showcase a few signature dishes, such as the Blood Sausage Arancini, Crab Apple Kombucha and White Radish, Charred Prawns and Scallop Tart among others when he serves his meal at Magazine St Kitchen this weekend. Take his dish, the Grouper, Infused Soy and Charcoal, for instance. “The bones are infused in soy sauce for 30 days and while some of them are dried out for part of the dressing, some are used to make a broth in which the fish is cooked. The dish is then finished with some fermented prawn butter,” says Nocente, who is excited about his first visit to India. “I hear it’s festive season in the country, so I’m looking to take in the sights and sounds of another culture,” he says.
Drew Nocente’s five-course dinner as part of guest chef series will be held at Magazine St Kitchen on September 13 and 14 at 8 p.m; more details at insider.in