Chef Name: Julien Royer
Title: Chef-Owner, Odette
3 Michelin stars
#1 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019, 2020
#2 Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2021
#18 World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2019
#48 Le Chef’s 100 Best Chefs in the World 2018, 2019
How old were you when you started cooking professionally?
Around 18. I had just graduated from culinary school and was staging under Chef Michel Bras.
What’s your earliest and fondest first memory of food?
My grandmother, Odette, was a fantastic cook and her food always brought so much joy to everyone around the table. We cooked with produce freshly picked from our farm, eating with the seasons and living off our land. One of my favourite foods was her redcurrant jam – I remember the long, slow simmering, adding vanilla and juniper berries, and how it would make the whole house smell so amazing. She was the one who taught me that respect for seasonality and products goes beyond any kind of food philosophy.
Which chefs inspire you most and why?
As one of my early mentors, Chef Michel Bras has had a great influence on my journey as a chef. He opened my mind and instilled in me a deep respect for the integrity and purity of each ingredient in every dish – he helped me realise this was what I wanted to do with my life.
I also deeply admire Bernard Andrieux, who I worked with for two years and where I learnt the basics and DNA of French cuisine. I have many great memories from that time. Chef Alain Passard from L’Arpege is also a huge inspiration to me.
What are your two favourite cookbooks and why?
La cuisine du gibier à plume d’Europe by the late Benoît Violier, and Bras, Laguiole, Aubrac, France by Michel Bras, are both true masterpieces.
Which two ingredients could you not live without?
It truly depends on the time of the year. Ingredients are a reflection of the land and I always believe in working with produce in season when it’s at the peak of its quality. I especially could not do without citrus and I love working with vegetables. The most remarkable flavours and dishes can come from the simplest ingredients; to this day, this ethos continues to inspire me to bring this purity and authenticity to the table.
What is your favourite comfort food to cook at home?
Some nice cheeses with a slice of sourdough and a glass of wine.
If you could eat at any Michelin star restaurant in the world today, where would it be and why?
There are so many restaurants I have been wanting to visit, like Geranium (Copenhagen), L’Ambroisie (Paris), Le Louis XV (Monte Carlo), and I’d love to go to Ultraviolet (Shanghai) again.
And who would you take as your guest?
My wife, Agnes.
What do you look for in a good chef?
Before anything else – humility and teamwork. You can be the best chef in the world but if you are not able to communicate and work as a team, you can’t achieve anything. I look for people who are positive, open minded, open hearted and willing to meld within a team or a place. A great chef is only as great as the team who supports them and believes in them, working in harmony together to create amazing experiences for our guests.
What advice would you give to chefs starting their career paths now?
The people you meet along the way are vital to your growth. It is a continuous journey of learning – from your peers, partners, suppliers, collaborators and fellow creators. It is important to continuously broaden your world views and expose yourself to differing perspectives.
How has the pandemic affected your restaurant? And how did you adapt and evolve throughout?
When we temporarily closed for dine-in during Singapore’s lockdown, we had to rethink every aspect of the business. We launched ODETTE AT HOME, our delivery-takeaway model, offering a selection of our favourite comfort specialties designed to be enjoyed at home. While it was done in a manner that’s very different from the dine-in experience at Odette, it retained the same essence – an utmost respect for produce and honest cooking. We were fortunate to receive such overwhelming support from our guests and most importantly, were able to keep our full team employed throughout.
Can you share any wisdom from the experience so far with others? Have you changed? Has your cooking changed?
F&B experiences remain crucial to our community, be it in our homes or in restaurants. As an industry, we were challenged to find new avenues of extending the same hospitality to guests while staying connected from afar, which led to opportunities for creativity. We saw many establishments pivot to do-it-yourself kits or meal-box subscriptions, and embark on innovative projects such as soup kitchens and virtual collaborations.
The F&B industry is remarkably resilient, and this experience has served to remind us of our passion for cuisine, service and people. Regardless of form, the beauty of hospitality is rooted in a simple desire to bring joy to others, and I’m incredibly thankful that my team and I have been able to continue doing what we love.
Chef Julien Royer is Chef/Owner at Restaurant Odette
Address: St Andrews Road 1-4, Singapore
Telephone: +65 6385 0498
Instagram: @chef_julien & @odetterestaurant