Few pleasures in life can equate to sitting down to a home-cooked feast in a space filled with love and warmth. So, those privileged enough to call Michelin-starred celebrity chef Emmanuel Stroobant and his Malaysian-born wife Edina friends would count their blessings twice over whenever an invitation is extended.
The home, a semi-detached unit in a leafy area of upscale Bukit Timah, seems unassuming from the exterior but, upon entry, opens up to an expansive space. The distinct spaces welcome you in a seamless flow — from the living area, accessed by a short flight of five steps, into the dining area and then into the open-concept kitchen and out onto a small garden, where a plot of herbs is lovingly tended to.
The five-bedroom home is shared with the couple’s two daughters, Keira and Mia, and a trio of cats — a Siamese tom named Cocaine and two tabbies, Luna, a Persian, and Valrhona, a Burmese. Edina’s parents also visit often from Seremban and have their own room.
It is the open-plan dining and kitchen area, however, that forms the heart of the Stroobant home. A quick glance immediately lets you know the kitchen is not designed with amateurs in mind. Four serious-looking burners share space with a French top, a grill and a hot plate — all by Waldorf — as well as a sous vide machine and three Fisher & Paykel fridges.
A very used-looking Nespresso machine services the couple’s love — and frequent need — for coffee while a countertop matched with well-travelled La Palma bar stools makes eating and conversation easy and breezy. A veritable library of cooking and recipe books — spanning titles like Robert Parker Jr’s The Wine Buyer’s Guide, Joël Robuchon’s Ma cuisine pour vous, David Thompson’s Thai Food and Grant Achatz’s Alinea — takes up all available shelf space above the fridges. Emmanuel quips, “Ah, that reminds me. My daughter will be asking me to return her mermaid cookbook to her shortly.”
Naturally, the kitchen proper is Emmanuel’s domain. “I don’t cook,” says Edina, unapologetically. “Once in a while, maybe, as Mary and Siti, my two helpers, do most of the daily meals. Emmanuel takes over when the kids request something special, like Mexican, which they love. You know, tacos, nachos … that sort of thing.”
When it comes to his own meals, Emmanuel prefers to keep things healthy as he is a vegetarian most of the time, due to health reasons. Today’s lunch menu reflects his approach to entertaining — uncomplicated but beautiful, with a focus on fresh produce and simple presentation, and always with an artistic twist. “We are happy the children have adventurous palates, so when we go abroad, it’s not too bad,” points out Edina, sharing that they travel often, for quality family time as well as for inspiration.
“Venice is on the cards soon as our 20th wedding anniversary is coming up,” she says. “But no kids this time. Just us. We travelled as a family to the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium last year and we ate our way through 19 [Michelin] stars in 10 days, children too. Holland, particularly, surprised me with a restaurant called Inter Scaldes. It was understated but so very good.”
This article first appeared in issue No. 93, Autumn 2019 of Haven.