I had an extremely lively youth and found a path to fulfilment through cooking. I cook food that is fun to eat, preparing unique and yet simple dishes.
Five questions for Heman Tan
You talk openly about your past as a drug addict. Did cooking bring new meaning and structure to your life?
Heman Tan: Cooking is not only a passion for me, but also a mission. My culinary skills serve as a tool for me to interact with the people around me. My dyslexic condition has prevented me from conducting meaningful conversations with people that surround me. But with lovely and well curated food, I now have another language that transcends my dyslexic nature, which “speaks” to all the diners who come to my restaurant.
In your businesses you employ a lot of youngsters who have major social and/or educational problems. By doing that, what message are you trying to send?
Heman Tan: My central message is “Love”. I have faced numerous rejections and even blame from society. I lost confidence in myself and was never able to be successful. At IronSupperClub, I am able to empathise with the various special-needs and underprivileged youngsters whom we are working with. We train them in three main elements: confidence, independence and belief. I want the youngsters to believe that they are able to contribute to the greater good. In the past year, I have brought these youngsters to join me in my various charity efforts.
You serve your food in ceramic crockery that you have made yourself. How did you hit upon this idea?
Heman Tan: I am a professional ceramist that turned chef. It is quite hard for a ceramist not to use his ceramic ware to serve. It was always my dream to serve the food I created on the ware I made. Eating is not just about the food, the ware we use is an important factor in eating.
As a chef, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen. When do you find time for yourself?
Heman Tan: I wake up at 4 in the morning and start the day with a 15 to 18 km run. I compromise my sleep in order to achieve more in life. Time is a precious resource, and we need to make sure that we plan and use this resource carefully. I keep myself busy throughout the day, instead of lazing around.
If you were a spice or a herb, what would it be and why?
Heman Tan: I love ginger a lot and you can find ginger in a lot of my food, since it is a wonderful and amazing ingredient. It is hardy, yet spicy, just like my life story.