Inspired by the owners’ Greek grandmothers, who championed a Mediterranean spirit of gracious gatherings around food and friends, the restaurant name Maggie Joan’s was born. A secret entrance in the back ally of Gemmill Lane sets the tone for the downtown chic vibe that waits for you beyond the rustic iron door entrance. With dim lighting, a curated mix of eclectic sound, and industrial designed interiors softened with rich woods, guests are invited to comfortably settle in for a glorious culinary journey. While seating is divided into three sections, the middle section of church pew banquette seating under oversized copper chandeliers is the ideal location, properly positioned for a direct view of the bustling open kitchen. A bowl of ripe multi-colored heirloom tomatoes next to a freshly baked plum tart sits on the subway tiled kitchen counter hinting to the cuisine’s artisanal nature. The food is simply crazy good and speaks directly to the talent of the young Executive Chef, Oliver Hyde. Growing up on the countryside of Norwich, England, farm to table cuisine was simply how Chef Oliver Hyde was raised. His Michelin star training set the foundation for his creative balance of flavors and precise determination to only deliver perfection. Whether you are living in Singapore or passing through, this is one restaurant to include on your itinerary. To learn more about this talented Chef and Maggie Joan’s, please read our interview with Chef Oliver Hyde and facts section.
Interview with Oliver Hyde, Head Chef, Maggie Joan’s
TL: I understand that you grew up with a father and grandmother that were Chefs, and began cooking yourself at age 13. What are some of the special memories you have with your father and grandmother preparing food and what is it about this experience that inspired you to go on a culinary journey?
OH: I grew up with a pretty good standard of food. We lived on the countryside, growing our own produce in the garden and going to the seaside regularly to collect sea herbs, mushrooming with my father in the forest, then tagging along with my father into town to sell mushrooms to the local restaurants. Growing up in the country, you hunt and raise animals for consumption, so you are pretty in tune with the food cycle. Naturally, you absorb a skillset for selecting and appreciating good produce and preparing an animal, bird or fish for cooking.
As many great memories as I have coming together around food, initially I had no interest in the restaurant business. I watched my Chef father work incredibly long hours, and all I saw was a hard life. At 13 my Dad got me a weekend job at the local village pub, and the chefs I worked with changed my attitude about the restaurant business. The head Chef had worked in London at a Michelin star restaurant, and he told wonderful stories of his experiences in the kitchen. He made it fun and interesting, and I was fascinated. The more stories I heard, the more I wanted to learn and improve my skills. So, I continued to challenge myself and looked for opportunities that put me in an environment where I could learn from the best.
TL: The Hamachi appetizer was one of the best dishes we have experienced in Singapore, beautiful on the plate, with an interesting combination of flavorful herbs. Can you tell us about the flavors are in this dish?
OH: We start with thinly sliced Hamachi. Then, we use a pretty diverse collection of herbs and seasoning for different effects. The Kombucha adds a bit of the edamame flavor, capers and sea herbs, such as Purslane and the Algine Seaweed, which has little branches of sea grapes gently burst in your mouth giving you a bit of a salty finish. The saltiness is balanced with a touch of pomelo for sour tanginess and filtered apple juice for subtle sweetness and a little chive oil for a delicate onion flavor.
TL: What do you think your best skill is as a Chef and what skill related to cooking would you still like to master?
OH: Prepping fish and seafood and balancing flavors are the areas where I feel most confident. I still would like to learn in depth French boulangerie-pâtisserie, working with different chocolates and pastries.
TL: With a seasonal Mediterranean kitchen, what is your process for creating new menus?
OH: We have six seasonal dishes, and adjustments are made dish by dish rather than a full menu change. We follow the European seasons for produce availability, and my relationship with my European suppliers is critical to sourcing the best produce. The majority of the produce comes from France and Spain, so the biggest challenge we have is the turn around time between when we receive the produce and introducing the new dish on the menu. A lot of produce is only in season for two months, so there is a short window, and we can only offer the dish for a limited time.
TL: What are some of your favorite ingredients to work with and how do you incorporate local Asian flavors into the dishes?
OH: My personal favorites are basil and tomatoes. In Asia, I am drawn to Thai flavors; ginger, lemongrass and chili paddi, and it is important for us to incorporate some regional flavors into the dishes. For example, the Greengage Tart (an autumn plum) currently on the menu is a traditional tart served during harvest season in most European households. We finish this tart with a little Sichuan pepper to balance with the blander crème fraîche and tartness of the Verjus jelly.
TL: Now in your mid 20’s, you have established yourself with several Michelin Star Chefs and fine dining establishments including Roux Brothers, Waterside Inn, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay and prior to Maggie Joan’s, Pollen in Singapore. What are the most valuable lessons learned from working with these Master Chefs and how are you applying these skills to working with Maggie Joan’s?
OH: Each of these experiences was so different and impactful. First, WaterSide Inn was a great training foundation for the basic philosophy of cooking; including balancing flavors (salty, sweet, sour, and crunchy) and understanding produce. Restaurant Gordon Ramsey was a tough environment. There was a lot of pressure, but it gave me a military style of discipline to only accept perfection. You knew if the dish made it, it was good, and that gave me a lot of pride for what I achieved. Finally, at Pollen as a Sous Chef along side a second Sous Chef, we had a lot of freedom to be creative and challenge each other to think outside the box to create a truly special end product. As Executive Chef now at Maggie Joan’s, I am using all these skills to push this restaurant forward.
TL: How would you define your cooking style?
OH: I am still developing and changing my cooking style, but creative comfort food with a subtle element of surprise is how I would define my cooking. Natural, clean, fresh and simple are key words that I would use to describe my dishes. I want guests to taste all the natural flavors present, and to achieve this, I under process dishes as much as possible. Good food does not need to be complicated.
TL: Living in the Asian region, where is your ideal getaway, and what countries within Asia provide the most culinary inspiration for you?
OH: Thailand is my ideal Zen getaway. I really enjoy the authentic way of life that you find in Vietnam and the more remote villages in Northern Thailand. The first time I went to Vietnam, I remember watching the guys on the beach pull scallops out of the water, and onto the barbeque they went with a little spoon butter, so simple and delicious. The limited time that I able to travel, I am really trying to switch off and relax, but discovering new methods of cooking is certainly interesting.
TL: What do you enjoy most about being a Chef?
OH: At the end of the day, it is about making people happy.
TL: If you could prepare a meal for anyone, who would it be and why?
OH: This is a tough question to answer because there have been so many influential people in my career. The Head Chef, Fabrice Uhryn at the Waterside Inn was a great teacher and really took the time to walk through the dish and explain why things worked. He was certainly the most influential teacher for me, so I would really enjoy cooking for him today. I would also like to invite the first Chef that I worked with in the village gastro pub. If it wasn’t for his stories and encouragement, I may have never gotten interested in cooking.
TL: What is “one word” that you would use to describe the Singapore food scene and what is most exciting about being a part of it?
OH: Diverse is the first word that comes to mind. Every type of Asian and Western style cuisine that you can imagine is here from casual neighborhood hawker centers to fine dining. The food and beverage industry in Singapore is a small tight knit community. It’s like any other social circle, we all know each other, and the industry is quite supportive. It’s a nice bubble to be in.
TL: What is your short-term goal while working at Maggie Joan’s?
OH: We are on the right track to getting a Michelin Star. This is my focus for now.
Photography provided by Maggie Joan’s.
Address: 110 Amoy Street #01-01 (Entrance on Gemmill Lane) Cuisine: Mediterranean Executive Chef: Oliver Hyde Opening Times: Lunch (Mon-Fri, 12:00pm-2:30pm), Dinner (Mon-Sat, 6:00pm-11:00pm), Closed Sundays Private Events: The restaurant space is divided into three sections; front, middle and rear alcove seating 8, making a cozy setting for small groups occupying a section of the restaurant. The entire venue accommodating up to 48 guests is available for private events.
Address: 110 Amoy Street #01-01 (Entrance on Gemmill Lane)
Executive Chef: Oliver Hyde
Opening Times: Lunch (Mon-Fri, 12:00pm-2:30pm), Dinner (Mon-Sat, 6:00pm-11:00pm), Closed Sundays
Private Events: The restaurant space is divided into three sections; front, middle and rear alcove seating 8, making a cozy setting for small groups occupying a section of the restaurant. The entire venue accommodating up to 48 guests is available for private events.