27-year-old chef Javier Low entered the established fold of Iggy’s restaurant when he was just 16 years old. Moving from an internship to a fulltime role after his National Service, he learnt his craft over the next five to six years under various chefs. Leaving as chef de partie, he ventured to Kyoto, doing a stage in Japanese-Italian restaurant Cenci and other restaurants. Stints at Japanese restaurants such as Kappo Shunsui followed upon his return home. By then, the doubts he was having about the opportunities he could find if he continued along the same path came to a head. He decided to start Il Den at Orchard Plaza, a one-man kitchen serving Japanese-Italian omakase meals. For him, it was a make or break decision. With his move to bigger premises at Bugis Cube this month, one might say he’s leaning on the side of making it.
What gave you the confidence to start IL Den?
As I was running the kitchen at Iggy’s for a few years, I never worried about handling the culinary parts of the job. It was also a confidence booster that the Japanese restaurants I worked for in Japan and Singapore really liked my work. But the business aspect was a very scary thing for me. That’s why I started small, did zero renovation and didn’t employ any staff. My startup cost was about $20,000. I thought if I lost it, I could still go back to a regular job and pay it off.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learn