Oliver Truesdale Jutras is Chef de Cuisine at Open farm community, a restaurant that aims to use products from urban agriculture to deliver farm-to-table meals in Singapore.
He trained at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Art in Vancouver before working in restaurants in major cities, including Ottawa, the Canadian capital and Sydney in Australia, alongside leading advocates for sustainable seafood and local campaigns. support like Robert clark and John taylor.
With his partner and sous chef Phoebe, they launched pop-up restaurants around the world. In recent years, they have moved to Singapore, where they hope they can support urban food systems and ethical supply chains while nurturing an urban farming community.
Under their leadership, the open-concept grocery store harvests herbs, spices, vegetables and fruits from their on-site garden and farm. All other ingredients are as locally sourced and sustainable as possible, including natural wines that do away with single-use glass bottles, or grown responsibly and ethically remunerated rice.
Here, Oliver shares his typical workday, while trying to navigate the ‘new normal’ of Covid-19 food restrictions.
8h00: I wake up around this time which is late compared to others, although as a chef I finish my shift later than the average person.
10:30 am: I arrive at the restaurant. The first things I do is write the tasting menu for the night and check the kitchen, the waiters [waiters], and farmers to make sure all is well. If farmers or kitchen staff say they have a surplus of certain foods, I will incorporate them into the evening tasting menu.
Here we only work with sustainable proteins and therefore try to use them in the most meaningful way possible. For example, we get our fish from local small-scale fisheries like Harvest of Tiberias off Pulau Ubin.
Since our fish supply is highly dependent on the catch of the day, we often cannot choose the type or amount of fish we get. Today we have additional barramundi, which we will combine with a different garnish than yesterday, harvested on the farm or in the garden. We adapt our map to the evolution of the product offer, but keep a static map based on regular products.
Instead of depending exclusively on a few selected fish species all year round, this ensures a more balanced consumption pattern with marine ecosystems and gives fish populations time to regenerate.
11:45 am: I run a daily service briefing with my staff, where we go over all changes to the lunch menu and daily specials. We change our lunch menu a bit (every three to four days). This is usually when we line up with our servers on what to push for the day and their market price. Our servers certainly do not offer recommendations purely based on what’s good, rather they incorporate what will be best for the restaurant as a whole. (Of course, the hope is that all will be well!)
Since the Covid-19, we have been doing a lot of food preservation. While I generally avoid handling my ingredients too much to retain their nutritional value (the difference can be up to 80%), preservation processes like pickling and freezing are actually key to extending shelf life and minimizing waste and short-term food costs. We are currently saving all of our excess watermelons since the latest Covid-19 restrictions, and these are going to sell well as watermelon rind on our special menu when people are allowed to dine again.
Coming from North America where people tend to be wary and view specials as dishes that restaurants are trying to get rid of, I was amazed that the audience response to specials is pretty crazy here – maybe because it seems exclusive. If we put the same dish on the special menu instead of the normal menu, the response can be twice as good. We’ve since adapted to the local mentality, and specials now tend to be actually something special that we have in small quantities. This can be very useful for testing the response of new dishes.
12 hours: Our lunch service begins and we start cooking; it’s a two hour frenzy. Around 12:30 p.m., we started to receive a lot of orders.
We compost our kitchen by-products, which took a lot of trial and error. We tried underground composting, but it takes much longer to ferment due to the lack of oxygen (up to two years). The Singapore Land Authority (SLA) also has remediation restrictions against installing composting containers on site in case this attracts vermin and other pests.
Our community of volunteers have been very helpful in finding ways around these issues. For example, a Singapore Airlines pilot contacted us during phase 2 [of Covid-19 restrictions last July]. He was a compost fanatic who helped start our compost program for the rest of our volunteers and farmers. Now we have a full fledged compost system with aerated tubes installed under the ground to help with decomposition.
2:30 p.m .: We finish the lunch service and do a full kitchen cleaning, and begin to resume preparations for the dinner service at 3 p.m. One of our chefs will also prepare meals for our staff during this time.
4.30 p.m .: Staff meals and break time. Sometimes staff meals are “food waste” – by-products that can still be made into our own meals. We are currently serving this chicken salad dish, where sometimes we end up with too many chicken carcasses to even reuse them for the main broth. We will then make a chicken soup for our staff.
Beyond the circuit breaker, we actually worked on a more creative staff meal structure. In countries like Australia, it’s a huge thing for cooks to use restaurant staff meals as opportunities for experimentation. One of our dishes, the Drunk Chicken, actually came from a staff meal prepared by one of our chefs. It’s hard to find the time to develop new recipes here since we operate seven days a week, so it’s a very efficient way for us to keep our menu and daily operations interesting.
5.30 p.m .: The staff meal ends and everyone is back in the kitchen. Preparations for the dinner service are probably still underway at this point. At 5.45pm we’ll do another front desk briefing, which will usually cover the tasting menu for the night, and any lunch concerns raised by the hostess.
9:30 p.m .: The last orders arrive, so diners have an hour to finish their drink or leave. Usually my kitchen staff was out of here at 10 p.m. Those in food and drink the industry would know that these are very good hours. I take respect for working hours very seriously because I think people should be paid overtime if they work beyond their scheduled hours.
11:30 p.m .: Reception staff, Phoebe and I usually leave at this time after completing the day’s papers.
12 midnight: I arrive at home. Usually, I don’t get much activity at night. If I’m doing something active it’s usually in the morning. Recently, however, I got into a video game called Disco Elysium. It has a fairly mature frame, a “film noir” and lots of grungy edges; the first one that I played for a long time.
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