Tan Chwee Chan
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2003
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Sous-Chef, Four Seasons Resort Maldives
- The Regent Singapore, A Four Seasons Hotel, Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa; The Oriental, Singapore; The Oriental, Singapore; BICE Restaurant 1926, Singapore
- General certificate in education, Cinec Maritime Campus
- English, Mandarin, Cantonese
Among many benefits of a culinary career with Four Seasons is the opportunity to eat freely – and not just from the Hotel kitchen. “I dine out all the time: on the streets, at restaurants, everywhere,” says Tan Chwee Chan, Executive Chef of Four Seasons Hotel Hangzhou at West Lake. “The classic cuisine of Hangzhou is new to me, so I’m spending a lot of time visiting markets and just eating and eating.”
While the hotel’s high-style restaurant, Jin Sha, covers Chinese cuisine from Cantonese to Shanghaianese, Hangzhou’s influence is sizeable. Chan – friends call him “Ken” – sources ingredients primarily from China and, as much as possible, locally. The area around West Lake is ripe for the picking, he says, with bamboo shoots, sturgeon caviar and Jinhua Hhm found nearby. Dishes such as fried shrimp with longjing tea are prepared in classic light and fragrant Hangzhou style.
Chan’s current assignment isn’t the first occasion he’s had eaten voraciously for Four Seasons, although the circumstances are happier than the last. As a Sous-Chef at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Kuda Huraa, he experienced the tragic tsunami of 2004 first-hand. “We were all swimming,” he recalls, noting the remarkable Four Seasons spirit he witnessed amid rushing waters. “I was telling people to bring guests to the bar, which was pretty dry. As I looked around, I realised no one was thinking of their own safety. They were all putting guests first. It was really amazing.”
In the aftermath, Chan played a central role in revitalising the Resort dining experience, travelling to five-star hotels and incoming cruise ships to consider restaurant design, menus and procurement. “I’m naturally shy, so it wasn’t easy, but I learned a lot about interacting with chefs and obtaining the best product in the world.” Among his finds were prime meats from Australia, fruit from Thailand, cheese and wine from Europe and, of course, seafood from just offshore.
Whatever his personal comfort level, Chan was destined for the restaurant scene. He began washing dishes at his family restaurant in Singapore at age five and continued to work and study until duty called at age 18 and he had to enlist for compulsory military service for Singapore. His desire for international experience eventually landed him at several Italian restaurants before a Four Seasons General Manager came along inquired whether he liked to swim. “I said ‘yes,’ and the next thing I knew, I was in the Maldives.”
So what can the kitchen crew in Hangzhou expect from Chan? “There are manager chefs and skill chefs,” he says. “I can’t sit in a chair for very long.”