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This Circular Campus Wants to Fill Your Head with Food | Outlets | Thirst Magazine
This Circular Campus Wants to Fill Your Head with Food
Image source: AIR CCCC

This Circular Campus Wants to Fill Your Head with Food

As I got out of my ride at No. 25 at Dempsey Hill, it was at the end of the parking lot with no sign of 25B other than an Indian and a Chinese restaurant up the steps. After walking past round tables on both sides with people doing yee sang tossings, I emerged on serene lush greens and a front glass-paneled bungalow with warm lights glowing from within.

AIR CCCC, referring to Awareness, Impact, and Responsibility, is the latest resident in the verdant Dempsey Hill. The historical 40,000 sqft barrack complex was previously a clubhouse for civil servants. The circular campus now houses a Lawn, Cooking School, Research Space, and Garden Farm. Its industrial minimalistic design spans 2 and a half floors with a restaurant on the first floor and a cooking studio with equipment for R&D on the second.

AIR CCCC Dempsey Hill
[Image source: AIR CCCC]

The building faces a lawn with grass perfect for picnics and a garden filled with seasonal vegetables and herbs run by the social enterprise City Sprouts. The selection of plants is chosen by the team in AIR based on their flavour, texture, aroma, colour, or some combination of all the above. The “seasons” in Singapore mean wet and dry, more humidity or sun, with temperatures ranging between 25 to 35 degrees Celsius. At this time of year, after sending off the fertile mulberries, citrus, chili, cat whiskers, ginger, and other heat-loving tropical plants were spilling all over the garden.

I may have missed the front entrance to the property earlier, but if I had turned left and looked up, the giant orange panel with the “AIR” insignia would have been hard to miss. The wooden walkway, a grand feature of the property, started at this entrance and connects first to the garden on the left, passing the lawn, and leads up to the clubhouse building.

Food first, always

AIR was founded by chefs Matthew Orlando and Will Goldfarb, together with entrepreneur Ronald Akili. The purpose is “to inspire thought about food” and as a training ground and incubator for the conversation surrounding the topic thereof.

[Image source: AIR CCCC]

No part of the food is wasted. I learned that fish bones were turned into lavash here. It’s a technique Chef Matt has developed in his Copenhagen restaurant, Amass, where the fish bones were pressure-cooked until they can be broken down to create a dough by mixing with tapioca starch, rice flour, and all-purpose flour. Add some spices and bake, that makes the lavash on AIR’s menu that would go with the Confit Filet and Charred Green Onion Butter.

The idea is not about being fancy at all. It just makes you think about what goes onto your plate, and when you consume it, it creates a conversation. Every element of the food has an explanation and science applied to it, with love for the planet world to top it. They serve these Crispy Oyster Mushrooms, which were grown in containers in Singapore. The supplier Mushroom Buddies is a social enterprise started by parents with special needs children to create a safe space for them to hone skills so as to empower them for a promising future.

The idea about AIR is that someone is thinking about the food very thoroughly, and very open to discussing about how. Anyone with any idea can open the conversation with them. With AIR’s facility, a food processing idea can be turned into an actual product and replicated in their kitchen. The only return they ask for is that the recipe they have developed can be shared with anyone who wants it, creating an open-source concept that allows deeper discussion and development in food sustainability.

Their Re-Incarnated "Chocolate" for example. The "chocolate" itself has no cacao beans at all but the by-products like cacao husks from processing cacao beans, cascara after extracting the coffee beans, and coconut flesh often discarded in commercial use of coconuts are roasted and ground with cacao butter and sugar that replicate the texture and taste without using undesired products.

AIR CCC Dempsey Hill Food
[Photo: Kim Choong] From left: Roselle Glazed Duck Breast, Cashew Cream with Smoked Chili Oil, Sweet and Sour Barbecued Skate Wing with Pea Eggplant and Galangal Hollandaise, Crispy Oyster Mushrooms, Sarawak Pepper Emulsion – Pickled Chilies

AIR CCCC Dempsey Hill Chef's Choice Menu
[Photo: Kim Choong] From left: Fermented Cassava Flat Bread with Mushroom "XO" Butter, White Fish Ceviche , Young Starfruit – Canary Nut Milk, Re-Incarnated “Chocolate” , Palm Sugar Sponge - Banana Skin Caramel

Interior using recycled materials

AIR's circular campus was designed by OMA, a leading international partnership practicing architecture, urbanism, and cultural analysis which build their design using intelligent forms while inventing new possibilities and content for everyday use. All furniture and fittings are designed by Andreu Carulla, an award-winning Spanish product designer exclusively for AIR using recycled timber, plastic HDPE bottles and Styrofoam.

AIR was launched on 31 January 2024. The Chef’s Choice menu (5 servings + 1 dessert) at $88++ per person with a minimum 2 pax seating. While the dishes are portioned to be shared by 2, each guest will have individual dessert. For odd size group, half portion will be added for the additional one pax.  For party of 6 and more, reservation should be made ahead of time.  

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