When food is about story-telling

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When food is about story-telling

Friday, 15 March 2019 | Saimi Sattar

French chef Julien Royer tells Saimi Sattar how his travels have led him to explore the diversities of cuisine in depth and the power that food holds

It’s rightly said, ‘Chefs can serve as an important bridge to other cultures.’

As French chef Julien Royer, co-owner of Odette, a two Michelin-starred French restaurant at the National Gallery, Singapore, comes to Masters of Marriott, he talks about how experimenting with the Indian cuisine, he is all set to present a five-course modern French meal to the city.

What made you take up the Masters of the Marriott initiative?

What I truly love about it is that it’s an initiative that celebrates the pursuit of consistent innovation and excellence as well as global talent. It has emerged as a front-runner in the world of hospitality and what better than to join forces with those who are leaders in the industry. Through this, chefs and mixologists from across the globe have the opportunity to showcase their craft, learn about a variety of global cuisines and engage with culinary enthusiasts from across India. I chose to associate with them because I resonate with Marriott’s food philosophy that chefs are artists who are skilled at creating awe-inspiring gastronomic experiences.

How does it add to your learning curve? Since this will also be your first visit to the capital, what are you anticipating?

Travelling to new cities and countries with different food cultures is always a learning experience. I look forward to visiting Delhi’s hidden gems and discovering the North Indian cuisine more closely. I look forward to interacting with our guests at the dinner.

How have you experimented with Indian flavours in your kitchen?

For the dinner in Delhi, we are going to use a lot of Indian flavours and techniques. I’m thinking of making a tandoori lamb, and using ingredients such as Indian saffron, rose and lychee for the other dishes.

French chef Michel Bras in Laguiole is known for instilling in himself a respect for the integrity of each ingredient and a commitment to showcasing its brilliant flavours. How did you incorporate this in your cooking?

I believe that the fundamental pleasures of enjoying a meal are delivered in the most thoughtful, welcoming and hospitable manner. We have taken time to forge lasting relationships with some of the finest boutique producers from across the globe — including suppliers from Japan, France and Australia. I take pride in offering guests a unique opportunity to taste these exceptional ingredients at their peak. We celebrate and respect seasonality, terroir as well as the skills of some of the world’s top boutique producers.

In Singapore, which are some of the Indian restaurants that you’ve eaten at? What are the flavours that you explored and liked the most?

 I particularly love the biryani from Bismillah Biryani in Singapore. It’s the only dish they serve and in limited quantities every day.

How and why did you choose cooking as a profession?

My grandmother Odette has been one of the greatest influences in my life. Watching my grandmother cook, I realised the kind of joy and love one can demonstrate through food. The kind of emotions that can be passed through food was the impetus for me to start cooking. I wanted to tell stories through my food.

Moreover, people want comfort and good food is always the best way to put a smile back on someone’s face.

You were also cooking in the French West Indies. What were the learnings along the way?

The diversity of cuisines and the power of food.

What are the essentials of your cooking?

Honesty, terroir, produce and people.

What is signature of the Odette experience?

Odette signifies a celebration of the people who grow and nurture our produce; those who cook; the people who serve; and the ones who entrust us with the honour of serving them.

Do you also like to cook at home? What would a meal at home cooked by you look like?

Yes I do. And when I cook, I really cook.

An example of a meal cooked by me at home would be starting off with a cold seafood dish — maybe a nice tartare or a ceviche, followed by a roasted lamb leg on a bed of potatoes, punctuated with a big cheese board and finished with something fresh and sweet. And maybe a fruit salad.