By the year 2023, Singapore may be amongst the region’s leaders in artisanal chocolate, churning out entirely local tree-to-bar chocolate — in the middle of a shopping mall, no less. This is the hope of award-winning chef Janice Wong, who, together with her team, have already begun their ambitious quest to plant 1,000 trees across the island; a groundbreaking effort made possible through community collaboration. Her new chocolate-focused, multi-layered concept Pure Imagination has opened at Great World City, with a full-scale chocolate production facility taking centrestage.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the adaptability and creativity of chocolate as a medium and a craft,” says Chef Janice. “Over the years, I’ve cultivated friendships with cacao farmers and suppliers from all over the world but when you think about chocolate in Asia, people immediately mention Vietnam, the Philippines, or Indonesia — all countries that make amazing tree-to-bar chocolate — however, it got me thinking if it was possible for us to do the same in land-scarce Singapore. Thankfully, with the help of amazing partners, we have now embarked on a years-long community effort to eventually fulfill our dream of a true made-in-Singapore, bean-to-bar chocolate.”
These partners include the likes of Great World City, Gardens By The Bay and Spectra Secondary School; the latter is a specialised school for Normal Technical students, who partake in a customised and practice-oriented curriculum to suit their learning needs. The Gardens alone will be home to numerous cacao trees, while Spectra Secondary School already has 40 trees planted with the help of students and staff. As part of her commitment to continually uplift the community, Chef Janice will also conduct lessons for Spectra’s students multiple times a year, with a select few who will also intern at Pure Imagination. The hope is to inspire the next generation to stretch their imaginations and explore careers in hospitality.
Tan Teck Hock, principal of Spectra Secondary School, expressed: “At Spectra, we’re always looking for new ways to provide our students with meaningful and extraordinary learning opportunities. With this experience, Janice Wong Singapore takes something familiar, chocolate, and expands on it, providing new insights. Beyond an in-depth understanding of the chocolate-making process, it also allows the student to learn more about how Singapore can work towards growing our own food independently. I’m very grateful that Janice Wong Singapore is willing to come alongside our school and educate our students in this regard.”
Pure Imagination is where guests can learn first-hand about the entire chocolate-making process. Chef Janice and her team will demystify the bean to bar process through short, small group tours of the facility (NB: depending on the prevailing government regulations) as part of a Degustation Menu. Participants will be able to touch and smell raw cacao, taste the pulp, witness the roasting process, and more. Along the way, guests will try cascara tea (made from steeping dried cacao skin), sorbet, nibs, and finishing with a single origin chocolate mousse. The experience will be priced between S$40 per person and must be booked in advance. For now, dried cacao will be flown in from the Philippines, Thailand, Colombia and Trinidad; during harvest season in Thailand and Malaysia, fresh pods will be brought in as well. Eventually, Singapore-grown pods will become part of the offering.
From November, Pure Imagination will also offer a complete DIY chocolate kit, where guests can take home fresh cacao beans, containers for fermentation, and even a mini electric grinder — with instructions to make your own chocolate. These will be available in limited quantities, which will be announced on social media.
Having spent her entire almost 15-year career in hospitality pushing the boundaries of dessertmaking and art, this is a new chapter in Chef Janice Wong’s career, as she sets her sights on bringing the community together through food, education, and of course — pure imagination.