Before joining the culinary industry 14 years ago, Alysia had actually wanted to pursue a career in butchery. However, she put that dream on the back-burner as career prospects were limited – butchers here mainly work with portioned meat and sausages.
“The kind of butchery that I wanted to do was whole animal butchery. That’s why I ended up being a chef, which I completely don’t regret. But that itch to learn butchery never went away,” she says.
So it comes as no surprise that Alysia has channelled her love of meat into her culinary repertoire – her first head chef gig was at Wolf in 2013, a now-defunct restaurant that was the first in Singapore to feature a primarily nose-to-tail menu. Then, in 2016, while heading the kitchens at Crackerjack and 28 Hongkong Street, she took a three-month sabbatical from work to travel to Sydney, where she visited Feather & Bone Butchery, which specialises in pasteurised meat and whole animal butchery.
“During the trip, they brought me around the different farms in New South Wales to meet the farmers and see the animals that we were butchering up close. I wanted to go to an abattoir, but I didn’t get a chance to. I think that if you want to eat meat, you should know that a life was given,” she shares.
Alysia loves working with secondary cuts and offal – which are tougher in texture but more flavourful – and she strongly believes that we should learn and know where our food comes from.
Says the straight-talking chef: “The way we sell food is very different from before. When I was young, there were live chickens at the wet market. Now, there are kids who grow up thinking that their food comes in styrofoam packets.
“It may not be my place, but I want to start that conversation, and kind of challenge and question people: ‘You know your pork chop comes with a foot, right?’ It had a face; it was an animal that had a life. For a lot of people, because food has become so available, they take it for granted, and they don’t think about where it comes from – what it was being fed, the kind of life it led. I think it’s a real shame.”
And challenging diners with nose-to-tail ingredients is exactly what Alysia does with her team at Rebel Rebel Wine Bar in Bukit Pasoh.
Items like Korean-style fried duck tongues and stuffed pig ’s trotter – a laborious dish that takes two whole days to prepare and cook – are some of her unorthodox creations, which she describes as technique driven and flavour forward.
“The pig ’s trotter that we have on the menu now, there is a lot of debate about it. It’s either you love it or really hate it. I have friends who are quite turned off when it reaches the table, because it’s a whole stuffed trotter.
“But then, there are others who come back again for this, because it’s a very labour intensive dish. I personally love it. It’s definitely worth all the trouble,” she says.
Rebel Rebel Wine Bar is at 14 Bukit Pasoh Rd, Singapore 089828