Norway’s Re-Naa, Headed by Singaporean Chef Mathew Leong, Gets Three Michelin Stars

The 29-year-old executive chef will also represent Singapore at the upcoming Bocuse d’Or culinary competition this September.
by Kenneth SZ Goh
Mathew Leong

Photo: Bocuse d’Or Singapore Academy

Singaporean chef Mathew Leong, who heads the kitchen at new Nordic restaurant, Re-Naa in Norway, which received three stars in this year’s edition of the Michelin Guide Nordic Countries on May 27.

The restaurant in Stavanger, a South-western city of Norway, is the first restaurant outside Oslo to be anointed with the prestigious three-star rating. Halfway around the world from the award ceremony in Helsinki, Leong was back in Singapore, preparing for a fund-raising dinner in the lead-up to his participation in the upcoming culinary competition, Bocuse d’Or.

Speaking to The Peak, Leong says: “When I first heard the news, my mind went ‘we finally did it!’”, referring to the team led by Re-Naa’s chef-owner Sven Erik Renaa. He adds: “It is all about great consistency and getting better each day. Over the past year, the R&D team has been exploring and creating new and interesting flavours. We don’t know what the Michelin Guide looks out for exactly, so we focus on the cooking and flavours.”

Singapore’s youngest representative at Bocuse d’Or

Besides running Re-Naa and its sister restaurant, Leong is juggling his day job with intense preparation work for Bocuse d’Or, a biennial gastronomy contest named after renowned French chef Paul Bocuse. The finals will be held next January. The 29-year-old will be the first Singapore chef from a three-Michelin-starred restaurant to fly the flag at Bocuse d’Or when he competes in its Asia Pacific leg in China on 22 and 23 September.

Over the past year, Leong has been training hard for the competition. On Sundays and Mondays, he dedicates his time to train for the Bocuse d’Or competition. He has assembled a team of nine chefs, who are all from Norway, to create, test and taste recipes during their intensive eight-hour training sessions in Stavanger.

Back home, he has the support of the Bocuse d’Or Singapore Academy, which comprises 12 Singapore-based chefs. They include the academy’s president, Bruno Menard, Odette’s Julien Royer and Les Amis’s Sebastien Lepinoy, who are all of three-Michelin-starred pedigree.

The Bocuse d’Or Singapore Academy has organised two rounds of fund-raising to pay for training and travel expenses of the team. The latest fundraiser, which included a silent auction, was a four-hands collaboration between Leong and Cheung Siu Kong, chinese executive chef of one-Michelin-starred Summer Pavilion at The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore on May 28.

To prepare for Bocuse d’Or, which is widely considered the most prestigious chef competition in the world, the Singapore team is constructing a state-of-the art training ground and kitchen that is a replica of those in the Bocuse d’Or finals, so that every movement can be trained down to the last second. It costs about 300,000 euros (S$436,000) to build the custom-made kitchen.

In the two months leading up to the Asia-Pacific competition, Leong has received the blessing of chef Renaa, who was the President of the Norwegian team at Bocuse d’Or 2023, to take time off from his day job and train for the contest. This is his second time representing Singapore at  Bocuse d’Or — he clinched the 12th position at the finals in 2021.

Leong says: “My goal is to stand on the podium at Bocuse d’Or, which has always been a dream. I am competitive, and would like to see where I stand among the best chefs in the world.”

He adds: “I would like to beat everyone, though that is not possible, but it is a motivation that keeps me going.”

This story originally published on The Peak Singapore.

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