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Odette: How Julien Royer conceptualised Asia’s top restaurant

What ran through Julien Royer's mind when conceptualising Odette, his first restaurant?


This is part of Julien Royer’s The Stories of Odette.


 

01: Trends

odette julien royer asia top restaurant

They are not important at all, otherwise I would never have opened a fine-dining restaurant in 2015. Trends are like waves, and waves are always on the ebb and flow.

(RELATED: Royer sat down with Gourmet & Travel for a full exclusive on the setting up of Odette.)

Wool suit, cotton shirt and silk bowtie, all by Salvatore Ferragamo.

02: Cutting Edge in Cutlery

odette julien royer asia top restaurant

Cutlery definitely has a huge impact on the way we eat. This is why we have chosen cutlery from Atelier Perceval, which has been designed primarily for the pleasure of eating – rather than to be fancy or unique. Most places put the aesthetics of cutlery before practicality.

odette julien royer asia top restaurant

The Perceval 9.47 Table Knife was designed and created by Yves Charles, a chef who crafted these special knives made of stainless steel. The Perceval knives at Odette are custom engraved with the Odette logo.

03: Retaining ‘Frenchness’

Thoughts4

Famous chef Pierre Gagnaire once said that while cuisine is international, its rudiments are French. I believe this is true. If you look at the influence and footprint of French cuisine worldwide, you will see how deeply France has influenced gastronomy in terms of food, recipes and “arts de la table” – the way fine-dining restaurants are operated and experienced around the world.

Retaining the use of traditional French sauces at Odette helps us retain our “Frenchness”. While the trend has been to eliminate them, I believe that they make up the DNA of French cuisine. Jus, fumet, fond, sabayon, emulsions give cohesion to my dishes. Without them, there is no link among the various components in a dish.

Wool knit sweater and cotton shirt, all by Bottega Veneta.

04: Food vs Art

odette julien royer asia top restaurant

Food is something beautiful and necessary. As a chef, you first “eat” with your eyes, so it is important to make something beautiful. But saying that a beautiful plate is a piece of art is a bit too much. At the end of the day, what matters is whether a dish tastes good, which is what many young chefs should think about.

Brocade suit, cotton shirt and bowtie, all by Ralph Lauren.

05: Eating Local

odette julien royer asia top restaurant

The idea of locavorism is eating whatever is on your land or close to you. However, in reality, 90 per cent of the products consumed by Singaporeans are imported. This simple fact proves that you cannot be completely locavore in Singapore. I like the idea of locavorism, but it’s a little bit like a dream here.

06: Heart and Soul in Produce

odette julien royer asia top restaurant

Farmers and producers are key in making an ingredient beautiful – in the sense of the way it is grown, what kind of soil is used and where it comes from. I think that quality is always linked to seasonality and seasonality is always linked to geography.

The problem we are facing is that big corporations sell seeds alongside pesticides and other chemicals that help drive large-scale production at any time of the year. This prioritises the amount of yield over the quality of the produce.

Cotton polo t shirt, wool jacket, knit tie and cotton pants, all by Alfred Dunhill.

07: A Feel-good Combination

odette julien royer asia top restaurant

As a diner, I pick restaurants based on what I crave at a particular time, or a gut feeling about the establishment, people and food. Ticking places off a checklist doesn’t interest me anymore. I am looking for good food, an enjoyable dining experience and great conversation with people, and this is what I want to offer customers too.

08: A Short and Sweet Pace

odette julien royer asia top restaurant

The most important thing about a menu degustation is that it sets a tempo. In this sense, every dish is served up right; all components of the dish are at their peak of preparation.

While 12 to 14 dishes used to be a norm for degustation menus, we do about six to eight courses at maximum. This way, diners are able to enjoy something a lot more substantial. With 15, 18 or 20 courses, you end up just having bites rather than whole dishes. The simple pleasure of eating seems to be lost.

Also, at the end of the day, what is most important is quality. If you have too many things to take care of, sacrifices on details such as plating, seasoning and freshness will inevitably be made.

Dinnerware by Crate & Barrel.

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Read more of The Stories of Odette.