Maxine Ngooi

Executive Chef | Tigerlily Patisserie & Chin Mee Chin

A dream come true — that’s how Maxine describes her culinary journey, which started from a humble online bakebox. Her homegrown startup has since blossomed into today’s Tigerlily Patisserie, which serves a range of freshly-made pastries, cakes and artisanal breads crafted using European techniques and infused with an adventurous Asian spirit.

Maxine’s love for baking began in her family home where, as a child, she would earnestly follow her mother around the kitchen, intrigued by the sights and smells of her baking. Those fledgling years were foundational, but her time as a student in Australia was pivotal. The widely available fresh produce there catalysed her creativity and inspired her to take up the art of baking.

With no formal culinary training, she first put on her chef’s hat in the two Michelin-starred Les Amis. It was there that she cut her teeth under the mentorship of renowned pastry chef Cheryl Koh, whom she subsequently worked with to launch Tarte by Cheryl Koh. Maxine then joined the ranks of three Michelin-starred Joël Robuchon Restaurant, and eventually became the Head Pastry Chef for Robuchon alumni Vianney Massot’s restaurant. There, she created some of her most well-loved signature desserts such as the refreshingly light “Beehive”.

With a passion for discovering new flavours and experiences, Maxine has also travelled around Australia to work at establishments such as Brae and Masterchef Australia Reynold Poernomo’s Koi Dessert Bar, which is listed in the World’s 50 Best! 

About you
1. How did you become a chef in a paper-qualifications-obsessed Singapore?
Before doing pastry professionally, I was a home baker and throughout that time, I learnt a lot through research and experimentation. With every successful bake, I added to my portfolio to showcase the skills that I had honed independently. Breaking into the industry definitely was not easy, but eventually I was able to reach out to people who saw potential in me and what I had to offer.

2. What obstacles did you have to overcome to get where you are?
Jumping into a professional kitchen was honestly a bit of a culture shock for myself initially — with long hours, a fast paced and high-stress environment — but I was very lucky to have had teammates who guided me and showed me the ropes.

3. What was the defining moment when you felt you had to do what you were doing?
As I thought about my path ahead, it occurred to me that in every profession, there would be challenges and struggles along the way. But I realised there was nothing else I would rather be struggling for than what I love most, which is undoubtedly baking.

About food
1. How would you describe or define your baking style?
My style is one that is rather feminine, with a strong emphasis on using botanics, spices, and seasonal fruits.

2. Who or what has inspired you the most in your baking journey?
My mother was my biggest inspiration, especially when I was growing up. She was my strongest influence be it in loving food, eating, tasting or discovering new flavours.


About your choice of ingredients
1. Why do you choose Japanese ingredients in your baking?
I love the unique flavours of Japanese cuisine that you can't find anywhere else, and I admire them for their pride and insistence in the quality of their produce.

2. What is the one Japanese ingredient you found indispensable in your creations?
Yuzu, which is the main focus of one of Tigerlily's signature desserts — the Beehive. It is an entremet that pairs yuzu with honey and lemon thyme.

3. What are some new creations you are experimenting with now that incorporate novel Japanese ingredients?
I am currently working on a range of pastries inspired by local dishes such as cereal prawn and chilli crab, and I love using Shichimi Togarashi. Its citrusy and spicy notes blend well even with local flavours, which I am always incorporating into my bakes.

4. What are some ingredients that you’d like to experiment with in the future?
Sansho pepper — it has such a versatile flavour and can be used in both sweet and savoury applications.