Leisa Tyler has worked as a travel and food journalist in Asia for nearly 20 years. Ewout Kemner is a Dutch physicist specialising in neutron scattering.
Like most good things, this business started as a bet. Leisa was working in Singapore with the World’s 50 Best Restaurants and became dismayed at how dependent restaurants were on basic vegetables flown in from overseas. Her friend, a well-known Singapore restauranteur overseeing a stable of French restaurants, told her it was not possible to grow delicious European vegetables in Asia. She disagreed. (They are still good friends).
Leisa and Ewout found Fung Chee Siang, an organic farmer also dismayed at the amount of produce flown in from Europe, on the internet, then garnered the support and wisdom of Loh Lik Peng, a serial restauranteur, and two of his then chefs - Anthony Yeoh from Cocotte and Dave Pynt from Burnt Ends- for advice on flavour, packing and tailoring produce to a restaurant’s needs.
The team spent a year and a half planting different seed to see what would grow in Malaysia’s temperate rain forest soil and how they would grow through the monsoons. Most didn’t. A few did.
The challenges involved with coaxing seed out of the ground was just a prelude for logistics and sending kilograms, as opposed to tonnes, of produce over a border. Culturally came more challenges; the farm staff had never seen 80% of the varieties they ended up growing, let alone knew how they grew.
Weeds & More now work with two farms, Fung's Hatiku and the Liew family's Sunrise Organic, producing around 60 varieties of herbs, fruits, vegetables, edible flowers and garnishes, for restaurants and hotels in Singapore and Malaysia.