Published February 27, 2010

100% Tetsuya

Even if he has to shuttle between Singapore and Australia and adapt to suit local ingredients, Tetsuya Wakuda is determined to give diners at his first overseas outpost the quality he's known for. By Olivia Ho

TOP Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda says that his new restaurant at Marina Bay Sands will be '100 per cent Tetsuya', and if his establishment Down Under is anything to go by, that equates to something which local diners can look forward to 100 per cent. After all, Tetsuya's in Sydney consistently graces the S Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants list, and the chef has been rated Australia's finest.

The 8,000 sq ft Waku Ghin restaurant will be on the mezzanine level of the Sands casino building. Designed by Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design LLC, it will sport a sake bar, caviar lounge and a 3,000-bottle wine collection.

His Singapore restaurant - one of six celebrity chef restaurants at the integrated resort - is to be called Waku Ghin and will be his first expansion venture since he started Tetsuya's in 1989. 'I chose Singapore because it is like my second home,' says the chef, who was in town earlier this week. 'It is a beautiful country.'

There is also a practical side to his choice: Singapore's proximity to Australia will enable Wakuda, who will be the main chef at Waku Ghin, to juggle duties at both the new restaurant and his Sydney base. 'I can leave Sydney in the morning, spend the afternoon in Singapore, catch the midnight flight and be back at Tetsuya's by morning,' he explains. It will be a punishing schedule, but Wakuda is adamant he will allow nothing to compromise the quality he is famed for. 'I will spend as much time as possible in Singapore without interrupting my business in Sydney,' he asserts.

On why he's waited this long to expand his business, the chef says: 'Five years ago this would not have been possible. But now my staff has grown up. I have 68 people working in Sydney now, managing without me.'

For the Waku Ghin team, Wakuda intends to combine senior staff from his original restaurant with local talent. 'I'm looking for young people here with passion,' he says. 'They will be working with some of my senior management staff and chefs, who will be coming over for a few months at a time.'

Nurturing talent seems to be one of the most rewarding aspects of the job for Wakuda. 'My biggest asset is my people,' he says proudly.

Menu-wise, Waku Ghin will serve Tetsuya's trademark Japanese-French cuisine - with, perhaps, some South-east Asian influences. While Wakuda is used to working with the organic and sustainable produce of Australia, such as Greenpeace-approved crab and farmed ocean trout, he acknowledges that he 'cannot have everything' here and will adapt. In some dishes, for example, he plans to use produce imported from neighbouring Malaysia and Indonesia.

'It's like what they say about Rome,' he jokes. 'When in Singapore, do as the Singaporeans do.'

Is Waku Ghin the beginning of an overseas empire? The chef is undecided. 'Maybe it is, maybe not. It depends on the team I grow here. I want to grow with my guys.'

'But right now, I have no time to think about that!' he continues, bringing the focus back to Waku Ghin.

The 8,000 sq ft restaurant will be on the mezzanine level of the Sands casino building. Designed by Joshua Zinder Architecture + Design LLC, it will also house a sake bar, a caviar lounge and a 3,000-bottle wine collection. Diners can expect to pay about $200 a meal.

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Waku Ghin, along with Sands' other celebrity restaurants and the casino, will open April 27