IT’S TIME YOU MEET THE BUTCHER’S WIFE
Introducing the bistro’s first Brazilian female chef responsible for a modern-day renaissance on gluten-free dining
With all that’s been going on in the world lately, one would think the controversy around gluten would have taken a back seat as Singaporeans emerge from a two-month nationwide lockdown, fresh off the boredom boat and eager to dine out.
Throughout it all, one neighbourhood backstreet bistro has kept valiantly to its promise of 100 per cent gluten free meals. They delivered them to coeliacs island wide during the circuit breaker just as diligently as they welcomed back the wider gluten-free community—from the allergic to the ambivalent—in spades once the restrictions were lifted, all while experiencing a modern day “renaissance” – one marked by a rediscovery of flavours, a revival of age-old fermentation techniques and a revitalisation of interest from curious foodies and natural wine lovers all round.
This is no ordinary bistro, nor neighbourhood, nor reference to cultural movement of 16th century Europe.
This is The Butcher’s Wife, Tiong Bahru’s very own gluten-free haven since June 2018. But with Paris-trained, Brazil-born chef Mariana Campos D’Almeida—its very first female head chef who joined in early 2020—at the helm, it emerges from our 21st century re-enactment of the bubonic plague with the “rebirth” of gluten-free dining through two brand new menus for day and night, primed to help diners rediscover its wonders through straight up inventive, gut-friendly cooking that follows principles and techniques borne out of the slow food movement. Just like the Renaissance, but without gluten, and with a whole lot of Brazilian ingenuity.
Her secret sauce? Simply cooking tasty, well-balanced dishes without gluten and from scratch, stretching the potential of each ingredient with her wild fermentation know-how, while being guided by her culinary North Star that sits in the sweet spot between her hometown of Brazil and her new home in Asia.
“This may be my first rodeo at a fully gluten-free kitchen, but I love a good challenge, and it’s starting to seem that when gluten closes one door, fermentation opens up another,” explains chef Mariana, whom prior to joining The Butcher’s Wife had dabbled in all kinds of fermentation wizardry at The Slow Bakery in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where global breads are famously built by natural fermentation and everything is made from scratch. “Fermentation and gluten-free diets are intrinsically linked – it’s the process that breaks up the gluten in sourdough, turns grape fructose into wine, and the lactose found in milk into cheese. But most importantly, they’re both great for the gut.”
That’s not to say the merits of Mariana’s cooking is solely determined by the amount of beneficial bacteria she can muster out of each dish. In fact, it’s the reason why Spa Esprit Group’s founder and chairman Cynthia Chua was quick to hand her the keys to The Butcher’s Wife.
Each dish Mariana has put together reads like a deeply personal love letter to Brazil, and a fresh perspective on Asia communicated through a Parisian flair that I am confident will excite any palate. I am all for supporting young creative talents—local or abroad—and being veterans in the field it’s important we cultivate a platform on our home ground that encourages creativity amongst the young. Each time I witness one with potential I am thrilled at the prospects – especially young female talent like Mariana.CYNTHIA CHUA