Why Culinary Visionary Ivan Brehm Wants To Celebrate Amazing Food, Art And Music Under One Roof
The cuisine that has made Michelin-starred restaurant Nouri one of the hottest dining destinations in the region speaks to its chef-owner Ivan Brehm’s passion for exploring the global ties that bind; crossing cultures, taste and experiences. It also goes a long way in helping to understand the inspiration for his latest project, a multi-concept space dubbed Appetite and located above his restaurant that aims to offer guests a unique appreciation of various art forms.
Launching this month, it shares more than just the name of Nouri’s research and development arm, merging its test kitchen with a vinyl record bar, an art gallery and an events space. It is, after all, the team’s belief that cooking is only a part of a larger system of interrelated theories, ranging from critical culture to contemporary arts, Brehm tells us.
“Cultural manifestation carries in itself the expression of the human spirit, its plight, its search for joy, its history,” muses the Singapore-based Brazilian gastro geek in an attempt to explain the motivation behind this daring amalgamation. He and his team had thus decided that Appetite would be a space that celebrated “the creative essence—the content that empowered the great music, art and food we have seen develop over time”.
He proposes that everything that inhabits our space leads back to people, as ultimately, the concept is about having fun celebrating amazing food, music and art without fear of their differences.
“I spent my foundational years in crazy cities like Sao Paulo, New York and London,” Brehm expounds, detailing how his training as a chef had as much to do with his time in the kitchen [at The Fat Duck, Per Se and Mugaritz, to name a few] as it did going to jazz clubs, modern art museums and public talks. “I wanted to bring that same energy to the city that I’ve grown to love and now call home,” he shares.
Food for Thought
It could even be said that Appetite reflects the team’s desire to explore what makes us human. But the idea of staging a space where varied art forms share the limelight reaffirms something more specific—humanity’s shared comforts and joys, if you like.
“We want as varied a demographic as we can wish for… people of all walks of life,” Brehm insists. “In offering our guests unique, exciting and deep cultural experiences, the goal is always to discuss and strengthen our bonds as a community,” he adds, convinced that we eat, pray and live differently around the world not because of irreconcilable differences, but because of the many experiences we have had to negotiate. “If we can share these experiences openly, we can also hope to be understood.”
From a food lover’s perspective, this quite naturally encompasses the appreciation of an equally eclectic selection of produce and products. As such, once a week, a maximum of 10 diners each time will get to experience a changing multicourse tasting menu that draws on the team’s in-depth study of global food traditions and Brehm’s love of improvisation.
The team includes wine and sake sommelier Matthew Chan, who is now beverage director of both Nouri and Appetite; and R&D chef Ashlee Malligan, who is supported by Nouri’s chef de cuisine, Russell Nathan. Head of research Kaushik Swaminathan co-leads Appetite alongside Brehm. Together, they plan to host a range of events covering an even wider variety of topics.
(Related: The Best Wines To Match With Asian Food)
SIGHTS AND SOUNDS
Evidently, the aim of such a concept is to offer an intimate yet experimental experience. Complete with communal seating areas, Appetite’s Living Room revolves around a dynamic music programme that includes a guest list of top musicians and DJs, and one of the island’s largest private collections of vinyl—more than 3,000 records amassed by the team over the years—that shares the attention with a progressive beverage programme. The latter champions a global roster of wines, spirits, sakes and beers that is producer-focused, as Chan is optimistic guests will be inspired to spend time discovering the people behind these beverages.
Brehm is also looking to complement the experience with a more accessible introduction to foods from around the world via an ever-changing selection of small plates spotlighting artisanal produce. The same could be said about the liberal embrace of visual artworks on display by both established and emerging artists.
Appetite, it seems, champions crossroads thinking, just as Nouri does crossroads cooking. It boasts a similarly bold and inclusive curation, though it’s easy to see why Brehm is confident the rewards will unite rather than discriminate.
“Building a community means embracing a diversity of ideas no matter the subject,” he posits. “Good things happen when people come together to share what they love.”
- Photography Darren Gabriel Leow
- Art Direction Matilda Au
- Stylist's Assistant Joey Tan