SINGAPORE, April 16 — The restaurant Odette has moved from strength to strength since opening in 2015.
This year alone, Odette, located at the National Gallery Singapore, cinched ninth place on the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list, also winning the Highest New Entry award.
Chef Julien Royer, previously of Jaan, was also awarded Chef of the Year for the second time by the annual World Gourmet Summit’s Awards of Excellence last month (March), adding to the acclaim of the two Michelin-starred establishment. The contemporary French fine-dining restaurant has been booked out for dinners ever since its opening.
Royer, who was born in Auvergne, in the centre of France, runs a focused and quiet kitchen.
At a lunch service on Wednesday (April 12), he was calm, cool and collected, speaking in a low-pitched, well-modulated voice to his brigade of 12 chefs.
His eyes lit up when he heard that TODAY would like a peek into the kitchen as his chefs work.
“Feel free to walk anywhere you want, or stand anywhere you like,” he said, as this reporter entered the world he inhabits.
And then he was back into the swing of service.
“Table 14, three pax, one asparagus, two eggs,” he called out. His chefs are not tasked to reply in the miltant “oui, Chef”, as it with some top chefs who demand loud, clear answers.
It is a more casual, quiet answer of “okay, Chef”, just loud enough for Royer to hear. But his staff moved swiftly to execute, for their master was walking around them, observing to ensure everything was on point.
The kitchen fell silent. The only sounds were the sizzling from food hitting the pan, and metal pots being moved.
During plating, Royer was careful, garnishing delicately with precise movements.
To Royer, quietness and calm must reign.
“It has to be quiet,” he said. “During the service, it’s true that there is a little bit of tension, a little bit of pressure. So, we have to maintain a level of discipline.”
The 34-year-old — whose Odette is a venture with The Lo and Behold Group — was preparing lunch for a sold-out World Gourmet Summit Classic Fine Foods Luncheon, to which media were invited.
To the table
Starters arrived in three mini-portions — a cube-shaped Comte cheese “sponge”, smoked aubergine pita bread and garden peas. A selection of pastries hit the table, the smell of truffles rising from the plate and filling the air.
Fifteen minutes in, Royer came to the table to welcome his guests.
He told them that “I want everyone to be happy. It’s important to be happy”.
Royer’s grandmother, for whom his restaurant was named, has long been lauded by the chef as his inspiration, the one “who gave me the passion of cooking, and the passion of giving joy and happiness to people (through) my food”.
She “was always giving us a lot of love and a lot of attention”, he told TODAY. “She had 11 grandchildren, and we are all equally cherished. She always fed us very well,” Royer said.
And he, too, feeds well.
At lunch, dishes came thick and fast. An avocado composition with creme fraiche dill, served with pink grapefruit and an avocado sauce poured at the table and paired with a 2012 Francois Thienpont Sauvignon Blanc, arrived next. The main course was a Blue Lobster Fricassee with artichoke, tomatoes, and smoked eel gnocchi.
Seared foie gras with Fukuoka strawberry, aged Rougie duck breast with dates, as well as a dizzying array of champagnes and wines. A tartine with black truffle and honey, followed by a dessert of peanut toffee, banana cremeux and coconut sorbet, were presented.
Sighs of pleasure were heard around the table.
Happiness, it seemed, had been achieved.
After a year and a half of being open, Royer’s approach to his food and restaurant is clear.
“What we are trying to do here is to provide (something) very honest and genuine — from the food to the service, to the way we talk (and) approach people, the way we serve people,” Royer said.
“It is extremely important for us to be real, especially coming from my family background,” he said.
The purest flavours take pride of place on his plates.
“I like to organise every single ingredient and ... integrity of it,” he said. He tries to keep things as simple as possible on the plate. It is not comfort food, but “I make sure the guests can recognise ... what they are eating,” he said.
Asked whether he thinks Odette has peaked, given its recent successes, and he said: “No, we try every day to get better and to improve our standards. I’m a perfectionist.”
And will Odette expand, given its popularity? One must book at least two weeks in advance to get a table, after all.
“My plans and my focus are here. There are (many) propositions (for partnerships and other ventures), but my future and my plans are focused on Odette,” he said. “That is the plan, for now.” — TODAY