Interview: Chef Dwayne Emuang

Chef Dwayne believes that character and a heart to serve exceptional food are traits that determine a true chef.

Chef Dwayne Emuang, Associate Director of Culinary, Marina Bay Sands

Tell us more about your background and culinary journey

I grew up in a Eurasian family in Penang, a Malaysian state known for its vibrant food culture. Despite being exposed to various cuisines from young, being a chef was never on the cards until I started my first full-time job as a systems engineer. After about a year into this 9-to-5 job, I realized a desk-bound working environment is just not for me. At that time, I was a big fan of celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay, and would always tune in to their cooking shows. As my interest in cooking blossomed, I took the leap of faith to join a French fine dining restaurant in Hotel Equatorial Penang in 2008. Without any culinary background, I had to learn everything from scratch - it was an eye-opening journey of discovery. Despite the long hours, I thrived in being a team player and most of all, in knowing that my guests enjoyed their meals. 

The turning point of my culinary journey was when I arrived in Singapore in 2010 to join the award-winning CUT by Wolfgang Puck as part of its opening team. Under the guidance of my culinary mentor Chef Joshua Brown, I became Sous Chef of CUT in 2015, and in the same year, joined the pre-opening team of Spago by Wolfgang Puck as Sous Chef, and progressed to Executive Sous Chef from 2016 to 2017.

After a two-year stint as Executive Chef of The Dempsey Cookhouse by Jean Georges Vongerichten, I returned to Marina Bay Sands in 2019 as the Executive Sous Chef of RISE and Renku, before progressing to become the Executive Chef of both establishments. In my current role as the Associate Director of Food and Beverage for the integrated resort, I take charge of the property’s food supply chain, and chart the outlook, menu creations and service levels for F&B outlets within the casino. 

What is your culinary philosophy?

One thing I’ve learnt from the get-go was to believe in the power of food – how a simple meal goes a long way beyond sustenance to brighten up a day. As chefs, we have to respect our profession and be good ambassadors of the hospitality industry. In addition to perfecting our culinary craft, I believe a chef should strive to enhance the dining experience for every guest who steps into the restaurant, whether it is customizing a dish, or collaborating for a surprise celebration. This guest-centric mindset will determine how we adapt, tailor the experience, and deliver beyond expectations. 

What are the most important qualities of a good chef? 

I value the integrity and passion of chefs. Culinary techniques can be learned and skills can be trained, but the heart and drive behind great cooking are the traits that determine a true chef. Cooking is not rocket science, but without good character and strong interest, a chef cannot go far. This is especially true for this industry, which requires high levels of dedication, discipline and resilience.

A good chef is also one who wears many hats, especially as he progresses to take on leadership roles. Essentially, a head chef is all at once, a human resource manager, accountant, marketing lead, and event organizer. From day-to-day chef rostering to managing costs and budgets, designing interesting menus, being creative to cater to specific guests’ requirements and rallying the culinary team, chefs need to be adept in many areas beyond the kitchen. I

What is your favourite meal?

Cliché as it sounds, nothing beats homecooked food, especially for chefs who often eat out. My favourites are my mum’s signature Eurasian dishes such as Curry Debal (Devil’s Curry) and Babi Assam (Tamarind Pork). These flavourful dishes spell home to me. 

If we were to eat out on off-days, I would prefer heading to a nice tze char stall over a fancy restaurant. I’m trained in Western cuisine, so it feels like I’m back to work when I visit Western restaurants – I can’t help examining the dishes and studying the techniques. On the other hand, catching up with friends over a hearty meal at the hawker centre is a comfortable experience and the best way for me to unwind before the start of a new work week. 

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