This is an excerpt taken from “Chef Ryan Clift of Tippling Club” written by Amanda Ryan for Life & Thyme. You can read the full interview with Ryan on Life & Thyme’s website here.
I have so many feelings about Singapore. The beautiful flowers and trees lining immaculate roads leading to and from the airport gave me the feeling that I had just arrived in Hawaii on a tropical holiday. The busy streets packed with businessmen and women in suits rushing to grab coffee before hailing a cab to get to work made me feel like I was in New York City on a Monday morning. The outdoor markets filled with beautiful citrus, fresh fish, and the largest zucchini I’d ever seen in my life brought me back to mornings at the market in San Francisco. And the food and drinks in Singapore made me feel as though I were in a dream.
After a 16 hour flight plus a 6 hour layover from LA to Singapore, I was sleep deprived, jet lagged, and in desperate need of a shower. I didn’t have time for any of that though because: food.
A woman on a mission, I hopped into a cab (a brand new Mercedes, which, according to my cab driver, would cost about $300,000 USD in Singapore) to grab my friend Lauren and meet chef Ryan Clift at Tippling Club. We arrived early, and strolled around an outdoor market down the street where an odd man shoved a large fish into Lauren’s hands and motioned for us to take photos with it. After a short, but awkward and smelly photo shoot with the fish, we exited the market as quickly as possible, never looking back. Somewhere in between the airport and the market, my phone had gone missing and suddenly we both decided that we really didn’t like Singapore all that much.
After calling my husband in the US and having to admit that I had already broken the first rule of my trip (don’t lose anything important), I begged him to cancel my phone plan, and we continued on to meet chef Ryan at Tippling Club. Upon walking in the door we were greeted by a well-dressed and friendly woman.
“Hi, I’m Karen. Did one of you leave your phone in a cab?”
I scream “YES!” and Karen replies, “The cab driver is on his way to bring it back to you.”
And just like that, I love Singapore again.
We were given a tour of the restaurant, starting with the bar area where at least one hundred bottles of hard liquor are hanging from the ceiling by metal hooks. The restaurant is incredibly beautiful, unique, and intriguing and, though it was only 9am, I really wanted a drink. We continued on past the kitchen where we met Ryan, who was in the process of instructing a man about how to fix the stove.
“And make sure to clean the side of it before you put it back. It looks like shit.”
I can already tell I’m going to like this guy.
Ryan takes us past a small private dining area and upstairs to a beautiful lounge. Loud ambient music plays through the speakers, and Ryan apologizes for it being a little messy; one of the judges from Master Chef is filming there later, and the crew has already started setting up. We pass under a gorgeous chandelier made of empty wine bottles and into where the magic happens: the test kitchen. I felt as though I should be wearing a lab coat and glasses as we entered the room, everything was meticulously well-organized which is very dangerous for someone who hasn’t slept in 24 hours. The shelves along the walls are lined with apothecary jars that are labeled with numbers and words, some of which I’m familiar with, others that seem made up, or special code words. I am especially afraid of knocking those ones over, so I keep my distance.
He then leads us into a room where there’s a table filled with giant cylindrical canisters that are labeled with just the Tippling Club logo. He mentions that these are the kitchen knives that he has worked with an ancient dagger maker in Indonesia and a couple of investors in Germany to create. They are the most beautiful knives I’ve ever seen. I briefly consider spending $10,000 to purchase a set of the knives, but considering my husband was already upset with me for losing my phone I decided it would be best to not give him any more reason to worry about my mental state.
Listening to Ryan talk about the kitchen is like listening to a child talk about their favorite toy, or their first trip to Disneyland. He’s full of excitement and passion. All of the high-tech machines around us mixed with chef Ryan’s complicated knowledge of the scientific aspect of food, one would assume that his parents must have been either chefs or scientists. Naturally, I ask the question that everyone is probably wondering at this point:
How did you get into all of this? Chef Ryan: I was 13 years old, living in England, and one day I was walking down the street when I saw a “Help Wanted” sign in a restaurant window, saying they needed help in the kitchen. I walked in, told them I wanted the job, and became the dishwasher. After three or four months, the chef came to me with an apron and told me that I was going to be replacing one of the guys he had just fired. Not too long after I started handling the food, I knew I wanted to be a chef.