Of the wide array of delicious food available to us on this Little Red Dot, our food-loving society mostly agrees on one thing: that there can never be too much of desserts and delicate snacks. Exciting us even after a full meal, desserts and pastries never fail to mesmerise us whenever we get to savour them. Yet, even as we acknowledge how much joy and delight they bring us, the nature of our favourite pastries have made them inaccessible to many within our multi-cultural society.
Seeking to bring about a change to that situation, Chef Shah Sarifi founded GAMO to provide a place where we can indulge in Muslim-friendly fine bakes. Inclusive and a first in Singapore, the beautiful café adds a much-welcome touch to our local culinary scene. We speak to Chef Sarifi to find out more about the inspiration behind GAMO and fine halal treats.
With your wealth of experience at various renowned establishments, could you share with our readers which are your most memorable experiences?
My most memorable experiences include working at F1 and waking up at the crack of dawn to set up everything needed for the huge event, the camaraderie and bonds shared with my team during the busy Christmas and New Year festive periods, as well as creating chocolate sculptures that I make for every festive occasion.
Starting a new F&B concept is not a simple decision in Singapore – what really pushed you to take the leap with GAMO?
I wanted to fill the void: there are no halal fine pastries and cakes in Singapore, and I felt that with my experience, I could fufill that demand as well as let everyone try the flavours and techniques that my hotel experience has imparted me with.
As a pastry chef, do you get to regularly create your own desserts at home?
No I don’t, I’m usually too tired by the end of the day. Whenever I get a chance to, though, I like to fry up a good steak and pasta.
Any unique creations that the public has not seen yet?
We have many things in the pipeline for Chinese New Year, which will be inspired by the flavours of Spring. Maybe something a little “wackier” but local – something mala inspired. That’s all I can say for now. Oh, and we’ll also be expanding our drinks menu, so look forward to that.
Having been awarded on multiple occasions, could you share with us some of your proudest creations?
I would say that the showpiece I did for my first FHA competition – where I sculpted a coloured Japanese Samurai armour/headpiece out of chocolate. It was a back-breaking experience that really pushed my limits and craftsmanship, but it was also truly a labour of love in itself.
Tell us more about why there’s a lack of fine pastries and desserts for the halal crowd.
At its core, I think it’s a supply and demand issue. I think that because most hoteliers and fine dessert places are not halal, there’s a sort of influence on halal dessert establishments in the sense that they feel confident securing demand even when they stick to just doing rustic bakes.
How do halal pastries usually differ from the ones we normally find?
There’ll not be any use of alcohol or pork gelatin, and are slightly more heavy-handed with the sugar.
With GAMO, you’re spearheading a relatively new concept – could you share more about how your pastries stand out?
We do seasonal artisanal pastries and cakes that are truly made by hand, with utmost sincerity and inclusiveness. Our starter dough takes at least three days to prepare and we serve up things we ourselves want to eat.
If we were to bake halal treats for a party at home, what would be your go-to choices?
My comfort go-to would be a Japanese-inspired burnt cheesecake or a Japanese cheese tart, because I just love the luxurious balance in both of them.
What are some essential things home-bakers need to get and look out for when preparing halal desserts?
Non-halal bakers need to ensure that there are no traces of pork gelatin within the products they’re using and their ingredients. They’ll also have to prepare new utensils, get a good mixer, and – I always say – put in lots of love.
Find out more about GAMO and Chef Sarifi’s exquisite bakes on their Instagram page here.