Felicia Tan, or “Char Siu”, as she is affectionately nicknamed by friends and family, was working in finance (curiously like a fair few others in her field), when she realised that her job was no longer getting her out of bed in the mornings. This realisation made her do a bit of a U-turn and she began to focus on her lifelong passion. In Felicia’s case, her passion was food and she states “food is really a part of me and my identity” (this girl’s life is so revolved around food that it’s no coincidence that her nickname is the Cantonese word for barbecued pork, “Char Siu”, which also happens to be her signature dish).
As a Malaysian growing up and living in in Singapore with only a stint in Australia for University, it is no surprise that Felicia’s food is heavily influenced by these cultures. Her journey into food and cooking started at a young age. Coming from a traditional Chinese family where a woman’s role was to cook and bear children, Felicia learnt a thing or two from her mother who was always cooking. However, it was her years in Australia and being surrounded by amazing local produce that really peaked her interest in experimenting with new flavours. A real home-body, even when her peers where out partying, Felicia would stay in, poring over cook books and watching cooking shows as well as concocting her own creations. Jump forward 10 years and 80% of Felicia’s typical day will still revolve around food. This means that her obsession can spill over into the small hours of the morning where she has been known to get up two to three times a night to nurse a 12-hour pot full of homemade stock for a risotto she is making the next day!
Given the amount of time Felicia spends on food, it might seem strange that this change in her career didn’t happen sooner. It was the competitive and brutal nature of the food scene in Singapore that initially kept her away. She mentions that “although there is a good demand for food in Singapore, the Singapore F&B industry is also an overcrowded market. With new establishments popping up all the time, there is a lack of loyalty to any one establishment.” It is only through the support of loved ones that she turned around and had the confidence to follow her dreams, delving into the world of F&B and specifically, the private dining arena that is relatively new in Singapore. She opened 108 Dining in March 2016 and is now living out her true passion in real life.
108 Dining is located in a gorgeous terrace on Emerald Hill. It is a private dining experience that offers you an evening where you can feel completely at home. You are encouraged to use the entire space, drift in and out of the kitchen if you like, or hang out in the lounge. It’s a “home away from home – with service!” Naturally, the food takes centre stage. Felicia offers a set menu, one that draws from food memories and flavours of her own. You can also request a bespoke experience where she will customise according to your food memories and requests.
The menu at 108 Dining changes every month but when conceiving a menu, Felicia always starts with a favourite food memory (either her own or one of her guests). Next she will look at ways to elevate the dishes, making them more interesting and thinking of ways to make them the “ultimate, ultimate version of themselves“. This is the part that really gets her excited! The final step is the hard work of experimenting with variations before deciding on the final creation. There is usually a strong influence of local flavours in each menu with “a slight twist to make it fun and hopefully more tasty“.
For Felicia, “when an element of fun or a story is linked to the food, something altogether more special occurs. It should evoke or create good emotions and memories that becomes an experience beyond just filling their stomachs. I try to create or recreate different flavours that I or my guests love. Hopefully people will be able to feel what I feel when they eat my food.”
For those who are not so familiar with local Singaporean cuisine, fret not, 108 Dining’s menu shows you a picture of the specific food memory for your reference (as opposed to showing you the actual dish, which is a surprise). It recounts the memory and gives a little insight as to how this dish has made it on the menu.
For example the Prawn Noodle Chanwanmushi that was inspired by Chawanmushi (Japanese steamed egg) and Prawn Mee (Prawn Noodle Soup), one of the items on her first menu was there because of one of Felicia’s own memories. She says “I can remember the first time my mum brought us to a Japanese restaurant. The Japanese food scene was nowhere close to what we have now, so my first memory of Japanese food is that bento on a plate, shaped as a plane, that always has a Yakult served with it.”
Realising her guests memories is also part of the challenge and passion for Felicia. She says, “recreating a childhood dish for someone, trying to piece together the different elements of a dish I’ve never tried before is so much fun. I get ideas on how to recreate that aspect of a dish from different accounts and try to put it all together. It is the most satisfying and fun feeling when I see their reaction.” One of the most memorable moments for Felicia since starting 108 Dining was when a guest said to her that her dish was totally reminiscent of their “primary school time where my mum would tabao (takeaway) from the market every morning for my lunch when I got back from school” Felicia just melts at that memory because evoking these feelings is exactly what she is trying to do at 108 Dining.
Almost 4 months after receiving her first guests, Felicia can’t believe her luck! She is still secure in her love of food (as one of her fears in making it her livelihood was that the business aspects of running her own business would make her fall out of love with food). “I still love food and I am so blessed… I may have really chanced upon something that could keep me busy forever… I learn that little bit more everyday, about my style and my food… Being such a huge foodie and then creating menus of my own in a private dining space has made me the most privileged person. I really can’t ask for more.”
Congratulations, Felicia on your continued success with 108 Dining!
Ordinary People were very fortunate to work with Felicia on some easy entertaining recipes before she started 108 Dining and you can see them below.
Book a table at 108 Dining
A booking of 10-15 people gives you the entire space plus the option of a customised or bespoke menu.
A booking of less than 10 people will be for a shared space with the pre set menu for that month.
108 operates a BYOB policy without any corkage charge and there is no service charge
As 108 is a private dining space, bookings are done ‘privately’. Once contact is made Felicia will walk you through everything you need to know.