Singaporean chef learned to use ants as an ingredient in Denmark

Aven Lau, chef de cuisine at Bâtard, talks about how he got into French fine dining despite having no experience, and why he loves black truffles. Photo: Jonathan Wong

In a recent interview with South China Morning Post, 28-year-old Singaporean chef de cuisine at Bâtard in Sai Ying Pun, Aven Lau, talks, amongst other things, about how he learned to use ants as an ingredient during an internship in Copenhagen. 

Coming from the island-city state, Aven Lau loves the hustle and bustle of a restaurant kitchen. At an early age, he started helping his grandmother in the kitchen, and when he got older, watching Gordon Ramsay’s Hell’s Kitchen introduced him to the restaurant industry.

After his national service, he wanted to pursue a job in the restaurant industry and got a job at a casual French restaurant. It was also here he was introduced to Fine Dining, but the job drained him and he started looking for new experiences. 

To the South China Morning Post, Avel Lau explains, “After two years, I wanted a change and went to Copenhagen in Denmark, in 2016, to intern at a Nordic restaurant called Kadeau. They have a restaurant in the city, and in the summer they have a place on an island called Bornholm, where they have a farm and harvest their own honey. It was a different kind of cooking, where you get to harvest vegetables and pick ants.”

Elaborating on how he collected the ants, Aven Lau says, “I did this for three months. In the morning, we would go to the forest and, when we smelled ammonia, we knew that’s where an ant nest was. You get a container and grease the sides with oil, then you throw a spatula at the opening of the nest and let the ants crawl up it. Then, you put the spatula in the container and shake off the ants. They taste almost like finger lime, a bit citrusy. But for me it was disgusting. I had to close my eyes and put it in my mouth, and then it was OK. We would freeze them and put them on roasted celeriac.

A different scene of scenery was the perfect solution for the young chef. “Being in Copenhagen for six months really refreshed my whole career. I had gotten so bored just doing French food, and here we didn’t just make a chicken sauce, but juiced celeriac and added whey to make a sauce,” he says.

Read the full interview with Aven Lau and much more on his career journey by South China Morning Post here.

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