Lennard Yeong may be one of the food world’s fastest-rising stars, but his foray into the industry was actually fortuitous. “I was never really a foodie until maybe, my 20s, when I got hooked on Anthony Bourdain’s (travel and food show) No Reservations,” he shares. “That was when I realised there was actually so much about food that I didn’t know. [So I went on] a pursuit of knowledge—eventually, I realised that the best way to learn about food is to just start cooking.”
For Yeong, diving into the world of cooking brought back childhood memories of helping his mother in the kitchen. “She was the sole breadwinner and during the weekdays, we’d have Chinese-style meals but at the weekends, she’d make something special and that was when she’d get us to help,” he reminisces. “If she was making pizzas, she’d let us put on the toppings and we’d just go crazy.”
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But when the time came for him to further his studies, Yeong picked engineering. “I think nobody really knows what they want to do at 16, right? My parents pushed me towards engineering because they felt like it was practical; and it is,” he says candidly. “But I worked in engineering for about five years and every day felt like a chore because I just didn’t enjoy the work. But at the weekends, I’d cook at home and I found that it brought me so much more joy. That’s when I decided that I would pursue something I love.”
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These days, Yeong is the in-house chef at Miele Singapore, the purveyor of luxury home appliances. He has also been refining and defining the kind of food he loves to make. “If left to my own devices, I usually do something a bit more Japanese because I find the cuisine so elegant and beautiful,” he says. “But I also try to incorporate more local elements; I’m still a very Singaporean boy—I love my Cantonese soups, my Thai curries, my sambal. I used to frequent this zi char place called J.B. Ah Meng and one of its signature dishes is the white pepper clams, so I would do this chawanmushi with a white pepper clam sauce.”
This writer recently had a taste of that chawanmushi at a Miele Lounge dining experience, as well as Yeong’s Japanese-Thai salad and a Japanese-Chinese crab sticky rice—creations that speak of his flair for hearty, unpretentious fare. At the chef’s table, Yeong is most passionate when talking to a fellow chef or connoisseur—his face lighting up as he delves into the art and science of cooking.
He has been sharing those creations on Instagram and garnering a sizeable, spirited following. His classical good looks—the chiselled angles, fine features and sculpted physique that we’ve reinterpreted here in a Caravaggio homage—don’t hurt either. But his relationship with social media has not always been smooth sailing. “I’m not the kind of person who craves fame. At one point, I even had to take a step back because I realised that social media actually tired me out,” he reveals. Then came the pandemic and everything went digital. “I started posting very random cooking videos from home, and so many people were doing my recipes and tagging me. I realised that this is actually creating this little community—that rekindled my joy. Inspiring people to cook, pushing them to try new things—that’s what really drives me now.”
Yeong loves connecting with people offline as well. “I do private events at work, where friends can bring whoever they want, and at one stage, I realised that the food is secondary—it’s more about the occasion, meeting new people, the connections, the conversations. When you have a good group, there’s an energy to it,” he stresses. “I’m cooking in front of them, laughing, talking, bantering. As much as I want the food to taste good, I love these moments where I am, in a way, bringing people together. And I think that’s what food should ultimately do.” You know the saying, “The way to one’s heart is through the stomach”? Yeong is proving that the other way around is an equally winning formula.