What’s the recipe for a star cook? Singapore’s best chef explains

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Published: March 24, 2019 1:52:46 AM

The initiative showcases the hospitality brand’s strength in the F&B industry, celebrating Marriott’s own culinary talent, as well as renowned international chefs. It was launched in India with the original enfant terrible, chef Marco Pierre White

 

Chef Julien Royer cooking at JW Marriott Delhi as part of the Masters of Marriott initiative and some of the dishes he prepared.

Two things strike you when you meet chef Julien Royer, running two Michelin-starred Odette in Singapore. The sheer pleasure he takes in feeding his guests, and his ability to turn a challenge into success. In the national capital for the Masters of Marriott initiative, not only does he quickly manage to dish out last-minute rounds of vegetarian appetisers on finding few takers for meat or fish, he also serves them personally, accompanied by an effusive smile. The gathering is instantly floored.

This warm hospitality naturally reflects in his success as a chef. Odette has been ranked Singapore’s best restaurant, Asia’s fifth best and is included among the top 50 restaurants worldwide.

But he is unfazed by the awards. “In the three and a half years since we opened, we have won more awards than we anticipated. But we are cooking for the people, not awards. We have been fully booked for both lunch and dinner since we opened. That’s the best award any chef can dream of. The accolades do motivate the team, but in this day when we have so many awards and stars, it’s more important to focus on making people happy and running a sustainable business, and we are happy doing that,” he says.

This notion of simple and genuine hospitality is a legacy from his grandmother, who taught him the emotion and happiness associated with food. “I was lucky to grow up with my grandmother, who taught me how food can make people happy. Odette is following that notion. As a tribute, all guests carry back a small jar of jam that was her recipe.”

An advocate of local food, Royer dismisses the idea of a global plate of food, which is also highly unsustainable. “Cooking has a strong link with the place you are cooking in. As a chef it is important to know where you are cooking, who you are cooking for and what. In France, I will not use Japanese ingredients, but whatever is closer to me—the local and regional produce. You shouldn’t have to look for products very far. Which is why the slow food movement and local food movement are something very fantastic. Just apply it to your own place or restaurant.”

As for his own cooking, he insists the DNA is still French. “I might be cooking in Singapore, but my techniques are French. For instance, the sauce is a very important part in French cuisine and I follow that. Singapore gets a lot of ingredients from the region—fish from Japan, citrus fruit, vegetables and spices from Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam and Myanmar…it opens up a lot of options.”

Impressed by India’s diversity, he loves the fact that recipes here are followed for generations. “The best place to learn is from mothers and grandmothers, and that is so strong in India,” he says. That grandmother connect again!

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