Singapore - Otto Weibel
Dubbed the 'Godfather' of Singapore's culinary fraternity
A rare profession always relevant
" My heart is 100% in Singapore. I'll always be a Swiss but for 30 years I have also been a Singaporean "

Three simple words spurred me on ‘you’ve done well!’ as Otto asked himself this momentous, life transforming question “Run away, kill myself or continue on this apprenticeship?” Learning work ethic of culinary arts: being disciplined; doing right things; doing things right; respect for food; foundational knowledge of food are all essential.

Aged 13 Otto started to cook for his friends after school. They liked what he cooked. His dream was to be a chef, see the world, work in the biggest hotel and the rest is history.

He admitted, “My heart is 100% in Singapore. I’ll always be a Swiss but for 30 years I have also been a Singaporean.”

Dubbed the ‘Godfather’ of Singapore’s culinary fraternity, Chef Otto shares his fascinating life story in his book ‘Soul Otto Food: Life’. It embodies joys, pains and adventures that pepper Chef Otto’s illustrious 50 plus year journey from an apprentice to a master chef, coach and mentor.

An important realisation was the discovery of how food, people and passion can sublimely converge to create moments that captivate the depth of a soul whilst balancing the original with doing things differently.

Otto observes, “As a chef we must know our roots and foundation of cooking. There’s never a boring moment when you are intentional on becoming the best. One of my biggest regrets was not learning spoken and written English when working in London.

The white chef uniform is something special. No other profession has such an extensive network of friendships in a worldwide community, associations and career promotion. Travel expands my horizons, lets me learn and grow as a person. Working on a luxury liner was 24/7 non-stop hard work which is when the discipline embedded by my first very tough chef paid off big time.”

Chef Otto’s candid, no-holds-barred sharing in his book will inspire chefs, budding young chefs and readers who yearn to explore what it means to relentlessly pursue one’s dream, life purpose and true calling.

“Nothing special, I’m just being me. I’m a chef. I love long walks which give me time to think and I come up with incredible ideas, the best menus”, he says. “Cooking is a life, it’s more than a job. All good food seduces saying ‘Eat me!’ Truly I am blessed having a memorable, colourful childhood in Switzerland. My father ran a restaurant and farm so I experienced the whole ‘farm-to-table’ process. Food is very much part of life not only nutrients for our bodily needs. It’s a ‘social’ thing connecting people, history and culture.”

Otto not only has an appreciation of fresh, natural produce but also a concern for sustainability. It is never about what he has achieved in his culinary career that thrills him. It is what he can do to develop and mentor the next generation of chefs and the people he loves and cares for.

Otto concludes, “To really taste the essence of life, keep being humble, learning and treat people with genuine honour and kindness. To be a great chef you’ve got to have a compelling passion for food and people; be open minded; willing to learn; commit to do your best; share your knowledge; praise where it is due; ‘kick in the butt’ when needed; never stop learning even from the commis cook!”

Text prepared by Halina Jaroszewska based on Otto’s book, ‘Soul Otto Food: Life’