Like most boys growing up in Patagonia, a sparsely populated region on the southern end of South America shared by Argentina and Chile, Chef Diego Jacquet’s dream was to become a football player. Alas, it was not to be, and football’s loss became our gain. Racking up stints at El Bulli and Aquavit over an illustrious career of 25 years and counting, the affable chef opened the gateway for Singapore to South American food with BoCHINche (now located on Amoy Street) in 2013 in collaboration with the Spa Esprit Group and a second outlet this year in The Butcher’s Wife in Tiong Bahru. He founded a nomadic Argentinean food festival and is also the Chef Patron of restaurant ZOILO in London.We recently caught up with Chef Diego and quizzed him on the challenges of going gluten-free, must-visit hotspots in South America, and his ideal last meal.
Hi Chef Diego! Besides the opening of The Butcher’s Wife in Singapore, what else have you been up to lately?
What are the challenges of opening The Butcher’s Wife? Going 100% gluten-free can’t be easy.
The Butcher’s Wife is Tiong Bahru’s newest neighbourhood bistro that serves gluten-free modern European menu. The food is wholesome, hearty and tasty, therefore many recipes need to be thoroughly tested. We have to learn to work with flour substitutes, new products and new textures. It was definitely very challenging, but I’m glad we made it happen.
You’ve mentioned that you envision The Butcher’s Wife capturing the spirit of the European neighbourhood bistro. What kind of experience does a European neighbourhood bistro offer and how would The Butcher’s Wife encapsulate that in Singapore?
The Butcher’s Wife is cosy, accessible, and unpretentious, which makes it a great place for family gatherings, celebrating friendships and romantic dates. You get the best quality money can buy for every dollar spent, and it’s all gluten-free (people sometimes forget how tasty the food is because of this). Basically, your local bistro with supreme food and ambience!
If you could only choose one thing to eat from each of the restaurants – ZOILO, BoCHINche, and The Butcher’s Wife – what would the three dishes be?
I’m a fan of pork belly empanada at boCHINche, crispy pig’s ears at The Butcher’s Wife, and black pudding, squid & apple croquettes at ZOILO.
Surely, you visit your neighbours when you’re visiting your restaurants in Singapore and London. What are three of your favourite cafes, restaurants, or bars in Tiong Bahru, Amoy Street, and Marylebone?
BoCHINche is turning five this year as well; how far do you think Argentinean food – or even South American food – has come in Singapore?
COMILONA, the nomadic Argentine food and wine festival you help found, was in Singapore in 2016 and in Paris this year. Would it circle back to Singapore or Asia next year? Alternatively, are there any cities the team has narrowed it down to for 2019?
A lot more people are interested in visiting South America these days. You spent most of your childhood in Patagonia, which places did you have the best memories of or would you highly recommend people to visit?
Are there young Argentinean chefs whose stars are currently rising?
One more question; what would your last meal consist of?