Former Willow head pastry chef brings back forgotten flavours at her own dessert parlour, Catkin

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Foodies were shocked when the news broke that Soh Hui Shan had left her job as head pastry chef at the Hong Kong Street restaurant Willow. Since the opening of the charming modern Singaporean restaurant at the start of the year, Soh had been wowing customers with her elegant, intelligent, technically refined and ridiculously delicious desserts.

Tasting her nostalgic creations, each based around either a childhood snack or long-lost local flavour, was a highlight for many regulars. 

But her fans needn’t worry. 

Soh recently opened her own establishment, Catkin by Huishan, a dessert bar that resides within the Twenty Eight Cafe in Sophia Flats, at the corner of Wilkie Road and Niven Road. 

For Soh, the new cafe offering both dessert omakase and a la carte dessert options is her moment to shine.

HOW DID YOU GET YOUR START IN THE F&B SECTOR? YOU MUST HAVE BEEN REALLY YOUNG.

My first brush with the F&B industry was way back when I had just finished secondary school. Times were tough and I didn’t come from a well-to-do background so I paid for my pastry education by working many different part-time jobs, which involved cooking and baking. I even experimented with working as a member of the service staff.

WERE YOU ALWAYS PASSIONATE ABOUT FOOD, EVEN THROUGH CHILDHOOD?

I was 13 when I first picked up baking. I learned by watching YouTube tutorials. 

I feel really lucky to have found my passion that early in life. So many people spend a long time pondering their future. 

Originally, I wanted to work in hotels, decorating cakes all day. But while in pastry school, I got assigned to The White Rabbit at Dempsey Hill and that was when I realised I really enjoyed the rush of service and found my calling as a restaurant chef.

I KNOW YOU’VE WORKED AT ANDRE, ZEN AND WILLOW. AM I MISSING ANY OTHER RESTAURANTS?

I’ve worked at several more places. Just before Willow and after Zen, I was at Le Matin Patisserie, where I developed my pastry-making skills. Before that, I worked for the now defunct Cheek by Jowl, which had been my favourite restaurant. There, I managed their pastry section and was given the amazing chance to create my first dessert. It was, of course, rough around the edges but such an incredible experience for a young chef. 

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