The Botanic, Singapore is well-known for its spectacular plant-based dining. Nestled in a corner of Raffles City, Singapore, The Botanic finds inspiration in nature and takes a sustainable approach to cooking. The fusion restaurant of eclectic Asian flavours and Mediterranean inspirations, is practically a treat for vegetarians and vegans, with an array of plant-based plates on offer. At the helm is Group Executive Chef Shannon Binnie and we were quite excited when we found out that Chef Binnie is vegan. No wonder the plant-based dishes at The Botanic are not an afterthought and taste fantastic. The restaurant was formerly known as Salt tapas & bar, for which Binnie was also the Executive Chef.
Chef Binnie who hails from Australia, has worked alongside Australian chef-restaurateur Luke Mangan since 1999, running the kitchens on his Salt brand of restaurants in Australia, Tokyo and Singapore. He also spent the last decade traversing through different parts of Asia, including Indonesia and Singapore, and over time he gained not only knowledge but an immense respect for Asian flavours which he now incorporates into his cooking.
When Luke Mangan exited from the business in Singapore, Shannon took over as the Executive Chef and was given the opportunity to steer the brand towards a direction of his own. Being a vegan himself, it had always been his dream to run a restaurant that celebrates plant-based dining, and that is how The Botanic was born.
Here, we talk to Chef Shannon Binnie to know more about his culinary passion, his journey and his favourite foods. And if you’re a fan of the Kale Salad, Seeds & Grains at The Botanic, Chef Shannon has contributed the recipe here.
How did you begin cooking? Did you always want to be a chef?
I began cooking immediately after high school, when I started off working part time in a small kitchen. It was intriguing to watch the way the chefs worked and the level of speed and precision at which they moved around the kitchen. This sparked my interest in becoming a chef myself.
Is there a chef you admire or consider to be your mentor?
A chef that I admire and would consider to be my mentor would have to be Luke Mangan, with whom I worked alongside for close to two decades. I’ve watched him build and grow restaurants into iconic household names, and admire his inventive approach to Australian cuisine. I’ve learned plenty from him, both in terms of running a restaurant business, and in exploring my creativity with food.
What has been your proudest moment as a chef?
My proudest moment as a chef was when I landed my first Executive Chef role in Salt Tokyo. Another proud moment for me is when I first cooked for my wife and children at The Botanic.
When did you make the switch to a vegan lifestyle and why?
I chose to become a vegan about two years ago. I’ve always been fond of plant-based dishes since I was young, but the main decision behind choosing to become a vegan was because I grew more conscious about my health and diet. Since I already had such a fondness for plant-based dishes, making the commitment to switch was rather easy for me.
Are you a foodie? What would be the weirdest dish you’ve ever eaten?
I’m more of a person that is continuously on the hunt for nutritious food at a good vegan/superfood establishment, rather than search for top restaurants to dine at. The weirdest dish I’ve eaten would probably be the cod sperm sashimi (shirako) which I had when I was in Japan.
What inspired the concept and menu behind The Botanic?
At The Botanic, a lot of the menu’s focus is on plant-based vegan and vegetarian dishes, while the other half is on sustainably harvested or organic, free-range meats. It was very important for me to establish a menu in such a way that the plant-based dishes receive equal footing on the menu instead of an afterthought. The menu is largely inspired by nature, and is driven by our guests’ desire for a more socially conscious and sustainable approach to dining. I draw inspiration from my Australian culinary culture as well as travels and learnings throughout Asia in the last decade that I have been here and being familiar/well versed with a deep understanding of Asian flavours. Using the Chendol Pavlova as an example, the dessert is a merging of the Australian classic pavlova, in a beautiful marriage together with the Southeast Asian dessert classic. The Chendol Pavlova takes inspiration from my wife and mother-in-law who are both Indonesian so naturally I have a strong inclination towards Indonesian flavours and dishes.
What dish are you most proud of creating at The Botanic?
Rather than a particular dish that I’m the proudest of, I’m proud of the fact that more than half of the menu at The Botanic comprises plant-based dishes. Even our meat-loving guests have returned continuously for those plant-based dishes.
Let’s talk food!
What is your favourite ingredient for cooking in your kitchen?
My favourite ingredient at the moment would be heirloom tomatoes from France.
Most versatile ingredient?
The eggplant, as it can be prepared in different ways and used for a variety of dishes.
Favourite plant-based dish?
My favourite dish would be a 100% vegan version of The Botanic Bowl, which can be found on our set lunch menu.
Favourite restaurant anywhere in the world?
It would have to be Three Blue Ducks at The Farm in Byron Bay, Australia. They offer a great variety of food made with sustainable produce, and it is a great place to relax with my family.
Favourite restaurant in Singapore? (other than your own)
I have two favourite restaurants in Singapore that tend to be kids-friendly. The first is Sunny Choice, which has a selection of locally sourced vegan food in a humble setting, and the second is Din Tai Fung, which has a great selection of vegetarian and vegan dishes that my kids enjoy.
You can check out our review here of the vegetarian and vegan dishes at The Botanic – Spectacular Plant-Based Dining at The Botanic and if you start drooling over the description of Kale Salad, Chef Shannon has contributed the recipe for Kale Salad, Seeds and Greens, so you can now try it in your own kitchen.