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Naiise Conversations With Organic Chef Cynthea Lam

This year, Naiise brought onboard more sustainable design brands than ever, a testament to what we sense is a shift in consumer awareness and preference for designed products that are sustainably sourced, eco-friendly or manufactured ethically.

Sustainable design and meaningful living go hand in hand, as we learned at NONG. We invited Cynthea, resident urban farmer and organic chef at NONG, to curate a series of kitchen & lifestyle products that best represent a healthy, meaningful and sustainable approach to living.

1. Tell us more about yourself, and how your love for organic cooking begin?

I am a mother of two young kids and after nearly losing my first born, Kate, to Pneumonia twice, I decided to leave my corporate job to take care of my children's health and well being. While at the hospital, we found out that Kate is allergic to food colouring. And that started my research on food, and how it affects us. Appallingly, food colouring is made of coal tar, petroleum and industrial colouring, and it is prevalent in all types of candies and foods that we feed to unsuspecting kids.

From there, I realised the safest way to eat, is to eat organic and to personally cook the food for my family instead of eating out. I dedicate a lot of time to growing my own food, harvesting them and then cooking them. It is such a meaningful task for me everyday, because I know the best I can give my children, is health and happiness.

2. What is your signature style of cooking?

I subscribe to snap freezing food that I cook in large batches, so that I can easily whip up something without too much hassle. For example, I will make chicken stock with organic chicken and bones, and boil them for hours until the goodness is extracted from the bones. I then freeze them in smaller containers and use them to make risotto or noodle soup or stir fried veggies or even chicken rice! I also like to use a lot of aromatics like ginger, garlic and onion and herbs, to flavour my food. Snap freezing actually locks in nutrients quickly and is an absolutely healthy method in the kitchen.

3. Does your passion for organic food transcend into other aspects of life? What are some tips to share for healthy living?

Absolutely. I now read labels of everything that I use or consume, and I believe in recycling and respecting the earth. We do not use products that are animal tested, and we support only ethical farms and meat suppliers in Singapore. To be healthy, start with respecting yourself and the people around you. I believe happiness is not just a physical or material thing; It is putting in an extra effort to communicate with your loved ones, helping others, and your environment. Don't waste time discussing about people or the latest bags, discuss about ideas instead. Get out of your comfort zone and do something crazy once in a while!

4. What are some of your must-have cooking/kitchen tools?

I am a wok-girl, and need a good quality wok-shaped frying pan. Another must have, is good quality olive oil. And then, of course, lots of inspiring cook books and beautiful linen I can use while cooking.

5. Thanks for curating this collection. What are your top 3 picks?

I wanted to think outside of the kitchen, and include snippets of my lifestyle as well. So, I've curated a list of things that represent me, in the house. They are organic, neutral and simple. My top 3 picks are: A. Kueh poster - I love the simplicity and child-like approach on these local delights B. NONG tote bag - I love totes and I love that it's good quality canvas and this represents my take on food - Grow Your Own Food! C. Vespa stool - There's always something going on in my kitchen - sometimes I'm reading a cook book, or my kids are tasting my food as I cook, or I'm resting my tired feet with a nice cuppa Chai -  a stool like this would be perfect.

6. How is design important to you?

I am a visual person, and love a good story. I always want to understand the creator's story and relate it to his/her design. Every good design has a story. Nature has been my biggest inspiration and being with nature affects the ways I cook and group ingredients together - and that, in my opinion, is designing good food.

7. What can we look forward to from yourself, and NONG in the months ahead?

NONG will come to a close at the end of March, and after that, I will be starting the movement "Cook Your Own Food" with some friends. It is so exciting because this journey has stemmed from my own personal experiences over the past few years of being a mother and I can't wait to share what I've learnt with everyone!

You can shop NONG Pop Up Store merchandise here, and also check out Cynthea's home-made planters here.

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