Culinary TV host Chef Bob shares how he bonds with his 6-year-old over TikTok, how and why he lost so much weight, and how he inspires others to cook healthily with his new web series, Bob’s Gastronomical Trail: Asia
You may recognise our Cool Dad this month, culinary TV host, Shahrizal Salleh aka Chef Bob. Singaporean Chef Bob first started cooking when he helped his parents out at their cafe in Katong Mall while he was still in school. He formally trained at premier hospitality school SHATEC and has since worked in the kitchens of Grand Hyatt Singapore and Ritz-Carlton Millenia Singapore, and now hosts Yahoo TV’s new web series, Bob’s Gastronomical Trail: Asia (which airs fortnightly on Wednesday). We catch up with Chef Bob about how he bonds with his 6-year-old son Umar Shahrizal (yes he’s the reason he joined TikTok!) and hear about his healthy cooking tips, plus how he lost 95kg over two years.
Tell us something crazy about yourself!
Back in the day, I was a hip-hop dancer! Not many people know this but apart from banging pots and pans around, I also play the drums. I am very active on social media and have recently found myself on TikTok, after being labelled a “boomer” by my niece and nephew. I was a bit confused but after looking up Urban Dictionary, I realised they were implying I was old and outdated! One of the reasons why I decided to get on TikTok is because I think it’s a good way to close the generation gap, especially with my son. It’s something special we share; a common ground where we can talk and do fun things together.
When you aren’t cooking yourself, what do you love to eat?
I mostly enjoy hawker food. We are blessed to have an extensive array of hawker fare in Singapore so there is no shortage of choice, but I have to say I love eating satay.
What’s your favourite hawker in Singapore?
My favourite hawker is Haron Satay at East Coast Lagoon. Currently run by a second generation, Haron Satay still preserves the original recipe of its first satay master. I wasn’t aware they existed until about 10 years ago when I was involved in a production and assigned to review their food. I’ve been hooked ever since and it’s still my go-to satay stall, especially for their satay babat (tripe satay).
Your cooking show Bob’s Gastronomical Trail inspires viewers to cook Asian dishes healthily – what are your takeaway tips?
When Yahoo TV approached me for Bob’s Gastronomical Trail: Asia, I really wanted to showcase healthier versions of popular food from across the region. I truly believe that healthy cooking and eating doesn’t have to be hard, and that we shouldn’t have to deprive ourselves of delicious Asian food to eat healthy. A healthy lifestyle is 70% food intake and 30% physical activities. We can enjoy our rendang, lontong, mee siam or any other favourite Asian food by making good choices and eating in smaller portions.
My tips for healthy cooking can be summed up in one takeaway – moderation. In my Yahoo TV web series, I use quality ingredients and make a conscious choice of what I want to include in my recipes. I also consistently demonstrate healthy cooking tips to viewers – using just enough seasoning, using only as much oil as required and not having too much sauce in a dish, as delicious as it may be.
It’s no secret that I am continuously challenged when it comes to my weight, fitness and health. My experience has taught me that while losing weight is achievable, maintaining it is difficult without a lifestyle change. I’ve come to realise that many Singaporeans, especially the younger generation, also face the same challenges – they say that eating healthy is expensive and not very tasty. So, I wanted to use this show to demonstrate that a healthier lifestyle is not as complicated as people think it is, and Yahoo TV is the perfect platform for me to reach out to younger audiences. At the end of the day, healthy cooking must also translate into healthy eating habits with everything done in moderation.
How do you encourage your son to eat healthily?
I’ve been subtly introducing my son to vegetables to help him eat healthy. My wife and I recently discovered that he loves cabbage and eggplant, something we helped him to explore by first disguising the taste of the veggies in lontong, and then slowly serving the vegetables to him on its own, in its original state.
I also always try to start his (and our) meals with a single serving of fruits.
Speaking of healthy eating, we understand you went through a personal transformation losing 95kg over two years! What prompted this and what did you do to change?
My son is the reason and inspiration behind my weight transformation; I want to see him grow up and be there for him when he gets older. I know that obesity brings various health complications not to mention movement restrictions. So, I decided that enough is enough, it was time to make a change. I keep in mind that I’m doing this for my son as I continue my drive to lose weight.
Like I said earlier, it’s important to eat in moderation together with physical activities, and this is what I did to make the change. Now I train at least five times a week, be it cardio, weights training or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I also recently started doing yoga. There are lots of times I feel like giving up, but the strong love I feel for my son gives me the willpower to strive.
Given you cook all day for work, do you do any cooking at home?
Occasionally, cooking at home is a bit of a luxury with my schedule. I usually cook during festivities like Hari Raya, or when I’m able to, which happens to be on Thursday nights.
Do you teach your son to cook?
Not at the moment but maybe sometime in the future. He does enjoy watching my cooking shows on YouTube and the web, including my show Bob’s Gastronomical Trail: Asia on Yahoo TV!
What advice do you give your child about finding his passion?
I tell my son to take a keen interest in whatever he does and be actively involved. He loves nature and the outdoors and we often go out to the park to catch butterflies. We live in Pasir Ris so we have easy access to the beach where we go crab hunting on the weekends when the tide is low. Right now, we have a tank at home for our crab catches, our little community of baby crabs.
What’s your favourite one-on-one activity with your kid?
It would definitely be fishing because it’s an activity we both love to do. We started fishing for guppies in the longkang (drain) and slowly progressed to prawns. Recently, we went to a kelong (offshore wooden platform) restaurant for his birthday where he caught the fish that we eventually had for our meal. He’s now pestering me to go fishing on a boat and I am in the midst of planning this trip for us. And of course, we also enjoy making TikTok videos and exploring its content together every now and then.
What’s your favourite outdoor spot to hang out with your kid?
Pasir Ris Park. My kid loves nature and the outdoors. Pasir Ris Park is a convenient location near our home where we can do the things we love, together.
Many thanks to Chef Bob, his wife and son for taking the time to chat with us, and to the very talented Irina from Irina Nilsson Photography for these stunning photos!
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