How She Became Outlet Chef At The Marmalade Pantry (ION Orchard): 20 Years Of Patience & Grit

The Marmalade Pantry is a local brand that began in 1999. One would instantly link it with the thriving modern bistro cafe right in the shopping belt of Orchard Road.

With its signature green and coral paper-mat upon seating down, the beautiful and contemporary cafe holds memories for many first dates, high tea gatherings, or work meetings. Families, too, come here for comfort food, hearty pasta, and cupcakes to satisfy their sweet-tooth.

Charting the journey to success

Outlet Chef Shirley Tee has been with the 21-year-old homegrown brand for almost a decade. In a largely male-dominated industry, she first set out on her culinary journey at the age of 22 as a cook, to a commis chef, and nowOutlet Chef at The Marmalade Pantry. One can only imagine the hurdles she faced and the opportunities she jumped at, all fuelled by an endearing spirit that never wavered.

I am without an education. But a lot of jobs require certifications or qualifications, so I chose to be a chef to learn useful skills.

Head Chef Shirley Tee, The Marmalade Pantry

Could a few pieces of paper deem one’s worth? For Shirley, the absence of it brought about more victorious moments. The journey began circumstantial, yet over the many years, her heart identifies the kitchen as her home. It’s here where she shows off what she does best. Her gratitude towards all things food and cooking are made possible with how her heart has guided her hands to become the chef she is today.

Tasting the best of The Marmalade Pantry

From The Marmalade Pantry’s signature dishes, it is telling that she has experimented and created with a woman’s natural insights, intuition and keen sensing on what are the best flavours for customers.

The restaurant is proudly led by chef herself, serving up plates of pasta, Western dishes, and more. Well-known for the all-time favourite Spicy Crabmeat Pasta ($26), the portions of fresh quality crabmeat are generous. Paired with the rich spicy tomato sauce, this is one dish that will have you licking every last bit on the plate. Altogether, it’s a highly impressive dish!

Burger lovers will hunt down this Truffle Beef Burger ($26) stacked with a hunky 200g beef patty, done medium well. The burger is only certified ‘gourmet-ly good’ by many. I mean, it’s a power combination: smoked cheddar cheese, sautéed caramelised onions, and nd truffle aioli on top of that. It’s the basis for the rich and decadent flavours of the burger.

Working as a chef comes with long shift hours, meticulous upkeep, and continuous learning. Festive occasions and public holidays are undoubtedly the busiest time for the kitchen, as those in the kitchen continue to work hard to serve you a memorable meal on your rest day. The progression on the topic of gender and domesticity should be discussed in a positive light, just like how Head Chef Shirley owns her identity in leading her pack.

“Has it been difficult?” I posed that question multiple times but each time she laughed nervously. For many, 2020 proved the hardest one yet. For Shirley, the hardship and challenges she faced in her life are no competition. Her mission to lead a value-based life over a goal-based life reigned above it all. And that is all that matters.