Jeremy Nguee on hating the restaurant business, how hipster cafes freak him out and the function of mod Sin cuisine

When I serve someone something, I can see them have a food orgasm right in front of me. The reactions I see, like “Oh my God!” or “Oh sh*t, oh sh*t, oh sh*t”— it’s so funny.

I was inspired to set up Preparazzi when a friend of mine was thinking of holding a dinner party, but didn’t have time to fully prepare everything. Plus she didn’t want to go through the hassle of cooking. She did know how to operate an oven, though, so I designed a menu for her and helped marinate meats, packed food in foil and so on. everything was labeled with numbers so all she had to do was follow instructions and the sequence of throwing things in the oven. 

I don’t really like the restaurant business. You’d love to come up with a menu full of as many different creations as possible, but you can’t. You have to stick to a standard menu because people are gonna come in and say, “eh! I liked this dish. Why’d you take it out?”

I can tell you how much people will eat based on the timing of an event; based on the profile of guests, I can also tell you how much they’ll drink and whether or not you should do a sit-down dinner.

My experience at Diner en Blanc was amazing. To anyone who can get a ticket: go for it, it’s totally worth the hassle. everyone dresses in white, there’s this whole sense of camaraderie, you share food with others, giant kites are flying everywhere, there are performers on stilts—the feeling is surreal. It made me look at Singapore differently, kinda like seeing your dowdy girl-next-door with make-up for the first time.

I hate writing menus. I just want to write words like fish and chicken. This is a lasagna, but there are two different types of sauces in it: one is a ragu with béchamel, and the other is made differently with another sauce and tomato reduction. All these are slow-roasted tomatoes, this is pesto, and the cheese mixture is a combination of four different types of cheese…who gives a sh*t? Come on! It’s lasagna!

I’m intimidated by all these hipster cafes that are everywhere. I go in and I’m like “Oh sh*t, I’m wearing the wrong watch! I’m in Sperrys…crap! I should’ve worn another T-shirt. Ahhh! My shirt has a collar!”

Fine dining with the Monte Carlo feel and fine silverware doesn’t exist in Singapore anymore—which is great. Now we have more places doing cutting-edge cuisine in a smart-casual environment, like [new Mod Sin places] Labyrinth and Ujong.

Mod Sin cuisine is very important. It can’t be that Singapore’s already 50 years old and the dishes that still define us are chicken rice and chili crab. Yes, those are important, but you and I were brought up eating burgers and pizza. There are so many cupcake shops here, and you say that cupcakes aren’t part of our national culinary identity? I’ll tell you that’s bullsh*t. There are as many cupcake shops as there are soya bean places. Mod Sin is necessary to help us expand the definition of Singapore’s culinary identity.

I love buying art and I love antiques. It’s important to support people who make life beautiful. I love the romance of finding something that had a past life, like a 1,000 year old teacup that an emperor used.

I am a functional extrovert. I think I’m still an introvert at heart. In my own time, I’d rather stay at home with a bucket of fried chicken, a tub of ice cream, a bag of popcorn and watch cartoons the whole day.

When I’m done with my business, I want to work part-time at McDonald’s, I want to be a retail assistant at Louis Vuitton and I want to be a yoga instructor.

What annoys me is people not taking the time to appreciate the beauty of things, especially if it’s out of the norm. The moth invasion we have now, for example. People are so scared of it. All you see on Facebook are posts like “Moth in lift C. Do not go into Lift C.” We don’t get experiences like that often, where nature comes that much closer, you know?

Many people think I’m metrosexual or gay, but I’m actually very, very straight.