January 7, 2021

There are many things I want leading up to my birthday. Gymshark leggings, Olga Raffault’s 2011 Les Picasses, a scarf, maybe. But receiving news that a pop-up lunch I had enjoyed with Chef Justin Quek at the helm back in March 2020, was in fact a social experiment—a video was released with a clickbait headline of “Food Influencers tasting Dog Food”—is definitely not one of them.

I’m sure that some of you have seen the video, ignorant-looking diners sipping on sky juice, oblivious to the drama that’s unfolding in the kitchen. (If you haven’t, quit hounding me, you can view it here). The screen bounces to vacuumed packs of food being slapped on steel kitchen countertops. A scene where the nosh is manipulated out of the bags with a chuckle or two into pots, is slightly uncomfortable. Celebrated Singaporean chef Justin Quek and a pair of extra hands quenelle chicken and dirty rice flecked with spices over a silky smooth velouté. Quek is respectful and approaches the diners with poise and quiet confidence, his spoken French is impeccable which is a plus point. But even under the stellar cover-up act, the scrolling columns of screenshot reviews to augment their dog food is a little patronising.

While I would have loved for this video to be buried, especially given my slightly extended screen time, this party has really gone to the dogs. In its defence, the PR agency has really gone the whole nine yards with this stunt—from the disclaimer forms to renting a restaurant space and using Quek’s accolades to drive this shebang. I guess he can add haute canine cuisine to his resume now. 

2020 has been a whirlpool of strange events, why not add being fooled into eating dog food to the list?

Shortly after spooning the brown rice and chicken veloute, Quek presents the next dish of salmon confit under a sheath of cucumber and dill consommé gelee. One bite is enough to know that it requires a generous hand of citrus to ignite the palate. This slip can be explained by the fact that dogs cannot consume too much acidic fruit. There’s also the salt element. 

The social experiment aka pop-up diner would have been bereft of life if not for the pours of Bourgogne Blanc from Lucien le Moine, a vineyard that Quek works very closely with. It’s a basket of yellow plums in springtime, exceptional, and the only thing I would have loved to doggy bag (I’ll stop now with the puns).

Eight months on, we are left with an email revealing to us the true nature of the food tasting session: to remove the negative perception of dog food and allow diners to discover the essence of human-grade 100% fresh premium food for dogs. Furry’s Kitchen is the mastermind behind this precarious operation, and I can understand their intentions.

I’ve once made whole wheat blueberry cookies for my aunt’s dog and stolen a bite or two of these sugarless treats. They weren’t bad. Reflecting on that, perhaps man’s best friend deserves an upgrade. Generally, I would roll my eyes at puppy birthday cakes, but actual food that I could sneak a bite of? Why not.